DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told judges and lawyers Friday at an Eighth Circuit conference in Iowa that courts should get out of the way and let the executive branch do its job.
“We have a government to run,” Sessions said. “It is not the duty of the courts to manage this government or to pass judgment on every policy action the executive branch takes. I don’t think it’s improper to raise this question. If courts are to be respected for their role, the courts must respect the roles of the two other co-equal branches, and be respectful of the constitutional structure set up by our Founders.”
Sessions said he respects the judicial branch but the other branches deserve the same respect.
“I am the top lawyer for the executive branch. It is a co-equal branch. It too is entitled to proper respect from the courts,” he said.
He said he has found that respect to be lacking from some judges.
“Judges are not sent from Olympus. They are not always correct,” Sessions said. “Some of the erroneous rulings have been quite costly to the taxpayers, have delayed executive action, and have engendered criticism of the president, and the Department of Justice, in the media and various groups.”
“Sometimes we have faced impassioned judges that have attacked the motives of our attorneys, our client agencies and the attorney general himself — me,” he said.
Sessions pointed to a trend he finds particularly troubling – when a single federal judge issues a nationwide injunction blocking the executive branch from enforcing or implementing a statute, regulation or executive order.
“Scholars have not found a single example of this type of remedy in the first 175 years of the Republic,” Sessions said, adding there have been 22 such injunctions in just the first two years of the Trump administration.
When one federal judge can enjoin a law or a regulation nationwide, “plaintiffs against the government only need to win once to stop a national law or policy — the government needs to run the table to carry out its policies,” he said.
Sessions acknowledged that this has affected presidents of both parties, including former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and it “dramatically undermines the ability of the president to carry out the will of the elected branches and the voters.”
The attorney general did, however, have nice things to say about the judges President Donald Trump has put on the federal bench, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch – who was in the audience and scheduled to speak after Sessions – as well as three judges recently appointed to the Eighth Circuit.
“I believe that President Trump’s judicial philosophy is a major reason he was elected,” Sessions said. “He laid out a thoughtful vision of what judges should do and he had the courage to put out an actual list for the voters to see,” which Sessions said was unprecedented.
“He told the American people that he wanted judges who would respect text, history, and the role of the coequal branches. President Trump has kept his promise: he has nominated faithful, restrained judges,” the attorney general added.
A Senate confirmation battle looms for Trump’s latest Supreme Court pick, D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who Sessions said will be a “truly great Supreme Court justice.”