Judges in Climate Change and Immigration Cases Tell the Executive and Congress: Do Your Job

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

While the national focus on the courts is on President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court, it is interesting that in the last few weeks two federal judges in California concluded cases on the controversial issues of climate change and immigration by both basically telling lawmakers and the executive branch to do their jobs in setting standards in these contentious policy areas.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California threw out a lawsuit filed by the cities of Oakland and San Francisco that would make oil companies libel for damage done by climate change. The judge wrote, “The issue is not over science. All parties agree that fossil fuels have led to global warming and ocean rise and will continue to do so, and that eventually the navigable waters of the United States will intrude upon Oakland and San Francisco. The issue is a legal one…”

While recognizing that “the combustion of fossil fuels has materially increased carbon dioxide levels,” the judge noted that action affecting companies dealing with the California cities would have repercussions around the globe. He said it was not the place of the judiciary to conduct policy and that while the use of fossil fuels has brought positive as well as negative results for mankind, “In the aggregate, the adjustment of conflicting pros and cons ought to be left to Congress or diplomacy.”

Judge Alsup concluded that while “federal courts have the authority to fashion common law remedies for claims based on global warming, courts must also respect and defer to the other co-equal branches of government when the problem at hand clearly deserves a solution best addressed by those branches.”

John Mendez, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of California a week later handed down his decision upholding California’s sanctuary state laws, although he allowed one lawsuit against the state on a bill that put businesses in a difficult position to move forward.

In concluding his decision not to order injunctions asked for by the federal government, Judge Mendez also admonished the Congress and executive branch to work out an acceptable standard on immigration policy.

Mendez wrote at the conclusion of his document: “This order hopefully will not be viewed through a political lens and this Court expresses no views on the soundness of the policies or statutes involved in this lawsuit. There is no place for politics in our judicial system and this one opinion will neither define nor solve the complicated immigration issues currently facing our Nation…If there is going to be a long-term solution to the problems our country faces with respect to immigration policy, it can only come from our legislative and executive branches…Accordingly, this Court joins the ever-growing chorus of Federal Judges in urging our elected officials to set aside the partisan and polarizing politics dominating the current immigration debate and work in a cooperative and bi-partisan fashion toward drafting and passing legislation that addresses this critical political issue.”

The idea expressed by these two judges—one appointed by a Democratic president (Alsup by Bill Clinton) the other by a Republican president (Mendez by George W. Bush), and will be debated in the confirmation hearings of Judge Kavanaugh, is that we should not have judge-made laws. The legislature and the executive must work out the laws and those branches can work to change laws.

The courts should not be placed in the law-making business and would not be if the executive and legislative branches follow the advice offered by these federal judges in California to do their jobs.

Share this article: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Comment on this article


Please note, statements and opinions expressed on the Fox&Hounds Blog are solely those of their respective authors and may not represent the views of Fox&Hounds Daily or its employees thereof. Fox&Hounds Daily is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the site's bloggers.