…into the States’ internal affairs. This one is via The New York Times and a piece Matt Apuzzo has there [emphasis added].
Burlington, WA, was a small city fighting what seemed like a local lawsuit. Three poor people said that their public lawyers were too overworked to adequately represent them in municipal court cases. The dispute went mostly unnoticed for two years, until the Obama administration became involved.
Unannounced, the Justice Department filed documents in the case and told the [Federal] judge that he had broad authority to demand changes in Burlington and nearby Mount Vernon. The judge quickly agreed and ordered the cities to hire a new public defense supervisor. He also said he would monitor their legal aid program for three years.
That the local case was being heard by a Federal judge isn’t the problem here; it’s that a coequal branch of the central government acceded to the demands of the Executive Branch and let DoJ prejudice the judge’s handling of the case.
That’s had far-reaching consequences:
Recently…the Justice Department has filed statements of interest in cases involving legal aid in New York, transgender students in Michigan, juvenile prisoners in solitary detention in California, and people who take videos of police officers in Baltimore. The government has weighed in on employment discrimination claims brought by transgender plaintiffs and a lawsuit over the right of blind people with service dogs to be able to use Uber, a car-sharing service.
DoJ has even less interest in these matters in what’s supposed to be a federal political structure, emphasized by the 10th Amendment (and in no small degree by the 9th Amendment), than does the Federal judiciary. These all are local matters, legitimately determined by institutions internal to the States involved. That such handling might (likely will) result in 50 different solutions to seemingly similar problems is part of the strength of a federal political arrangement. In the end, these seemingly similar problems are not that similar: they differ critically simply by their existence in widely differing political and social environments: those different States.
The Federal judiciary has lost sight of this. By acceding so blithely to Executive Branch intrusions, both branches are actively satisfying John Jay’s goal: reducing the States to the same relationship to the central government as counties have relative to their States, that of serving merely as districts to facilitate enforcement of the central government’s requirements.
There are Iron Curtains, and there are iron curtains.