Paul Mirengoff frequently refers to “our robed masters” in the federal judiciary. Yesterday our robed master Bates of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia administered the latest in a series of legal defeats to President Trump’s attempted rescission of President Obama’s unconstitutional program to regularize illegal immigrants by executive decree. The is President Trump’s second defeat in this case.
The New York Times’s Miriam Jordan gave an account of Master Bates’s initial ruling in the case this past April in “U.S. Must Keep DACA and Accept New Applications, Federal Judge Rules.” Our robed master Bates ruled that the Trump administration had inadequately explained its rejection of the Obama administration’s DACA decree, but he kindly afforded Trump one more chance to explain. As Jordan put it: “The judge stayed his decision for 90 days and gave the Department of Homeland Security, which administers the program, the opportunity to better explain its reasoning for canceling it. If the department fails to do so, it ‘must accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications,’ Judge Bates said in the decision.”
This time around — I have embedded the 25-page memorandum opinion below — Judge Bates declares that the administration’s restatement of its rationale for withdrawing DACA still fails to pass muster. He nevertheless graciously continues the stay of his order of vacatur “for a brief period—twenty days—to permit the government to determine whether it intends to appeal the Court’s decision and, if so, to seek a stay pending appeal.”
As I noted in April, the very first joke Jonathan Swift inserted into chapter 1 of Gulliver’s Travels plays on the name of James Bates, the physician whom Gulliver served as a bound apprentice. Swift warmed up to the joke with several variations and near misses: “Mr. James Bates,” “Mr. Bates,” “my good master, Mr. Bates,” and “Mr. Bates, my master.” In the third paragraph Gulliver finally renders it “my good master Bates.”
In this case the joke may be on us. Even so, I can’t help but think of Gulliver and his good master when reading Judge Bates’s opinions in this case. While the Bates joke is Swift’s first in the text of chapter 1, Judge Bates’s joke takes its place in a long line brought to us by our robed masters, and not just on DACA. On the DACA version of the joke, see Josh Blackman’s January 2018 NR column criticizing yet another ruling to the same effect in “A ludicrous ruling that Trump can’t end DACA.”