Barr Slams 'Unprecedented Power' of Lower Courts

Posted: May 22, 2019 8:30 AM
Barr Slams 'Unprecedented Power' of Lower Courts

Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Attorney General William Barr blasted lower courts Tuesday for the "improper use of nationwide injunctions against policies of all stripes,” saying district courts wield “unprecedented power” and are threatening the president’s agenda.

“One judge can, in effect, cancel the policy with the stroke of the pen,” he said during a speech before the American Law Institute. “No official in the United States government can exercise that kind of nationwide power, with the sole exception of the president. And the Constitution subjects him to nationwide election, among other constitutional checks, as a prerequisite to wielding that power.”

He pointed to the district court in California that in January 2018 issued a temporary injunction to block the Trump administration from ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

DACA has protected about 800,000 people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families who overstayed visas. The Obama-era program includes hundreds of thousands of college-age students.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup said at the time that lawyers in favor of DACA demonstrated that the immigrants “were likely to suffer serious, irreparable harm” without court action. The judge also said the lawyers have a strong chance of succeeding at trial.

The White House was swift to criticize these lower court injunctions and called this particular decision “outrageous.” Vice President Mike Pence recently said the administration will ask the Supreme Court to bar them. (

"So what have these nationwide injunction wrought? Dreamers remain in limbo, the political process has been pre-empted, and we have had over a year of bitter political division that included a government shutdown of unprecedented length," Barr said.

The attorney general pointed out that there have been 37 nationwide injunctions since President Trump took office, more than once per month—a stark contrast with the previous administration. Former President Obama only faced two in his first two years in office.

The Associated Press said Barr’s comments were the “latest example” of him “moving to embrace Trump’s political talking points.”

Barr recently defended himself against accusations that he’s protecting the president, telling the Wall Street Journal he’s interested in preserving the integrity of the executive branch, not Trump in particular. 

“If you destroy the presidency and make it an errand boy for Congress, we’re going to be a much weaker and more divided nation,” he said. 

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