The Novelty of Nationwide Injunctions

October 14th, 2016

Judge Hanen’s nationwide injunction in Texas v. United States has spurred a widespread debate over the power of a single district court to bind actors nationwide. For example, a detailed piece in Salon about the effort to break down Judge Hanen’s injunction includes this discussion:

David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and counsel to various reform groups, told Salon via email. “As a legal strategy challenging the Republican injunction outside the 5th Circuit is smart and effective because it uses a potent legal argument to ask a simple question: Why does a federal judge in Brownsville, Texas think he has the power to make decisions affecting the rights of millions of immigrants across the country who’ve never set foot in his courtroom and over whom he has no jurisdiction?”

This isn’t novel, at all. As Josh Gerstein observed in Politico a few weeks ago, the D.C. District Court have routinely granted such relief.

Nonetheless, some liberal legal activists seem reluctant to deplore the conservative states’ tactics. The reason: civil rights and immigrants’ advocates have long visited the courtrooms of federal judges to seek sweeping rulings looking to alter federal policy across the country.

“A single case involving a single judge can issue an injunction against nationwide laws or policies and they have always done that. That’s the way our legal system works,” said Nina Perales of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. “It’s almost as if conservatives figured this out after progressives did….It’s really not new.”

Perales is an intervenor in the U.S. v. Texas litigation, so her comments here carry extra weight.

I supposes what is novel here, is that after the Nuclear Option, the D.C. Circuit is no longer the desirable it once was.