Lying Lawyers are Inexcusable Liars

Over at VC, Ilya Somin has an excellent post about Biden’s “parole in place” policy. which should be about as uncontroversial from a policy perspective as any presidential act could be.

Today, President Biden  announced a policy granting “parole in place” to undocumented immigrant spouses of US citizens who have been in the US for at least 10 years, and meet some other criteria. Those eligible can apply for parole status. If they get it, they will then have a three-year period during which they will have work permits and can apply for “green card” permanent residency (that status will eventually also enable them to apply for citizenship). Currently spouses of US citizens are already eligible to apply for green cards. But if they entered the US illegally, they are required to meet onerous conditions, such as first leaving the United States, and staying away for up to ten years. About 500,000 people could potentially benefit from the program.

The only change is that undocumented spouses of American citizens don’t have to return to their native countries and stay for ten years to apply legal permanent residency. While there remains a potential legal impediment to Biden’s policy, there is no argument that militates against this from a policy perspective. It’s a good thing, no matter what your political views.

And yet, it’s under attack because of course it is.

“Big news: Biden to announce an unconstitutional executive amnesty for illegal aliens during a border invasion and in the aftermath of multiple gruesome raped and murders of Americans at the hands of Biden-freed illegals. This is an attack on democracy,” [Stephen Miller] wrote, likely referring to the murder of Rachel Morin last year.

Granted, there are few less credible voices on immigration than Miller, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t carry weight among a certain cohort that favors red baseball caps. But then, Miller isn’t a lawyer so perhaps it’s not his fault that he’s fundamentally clueless on any subject involving law. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, however, is a lawyer, so he has no excuse.

The President may think our homeland security is some kind of game that he can try to use for political points, but Americans know this amnesty plan will only incentivize more illegal immigration and endanger Americans.

This is proof-positive of the Democrats’ plan to turn illegal aliens into voters. I fully expect this order, which is manifestly contrary to the Immigration and Naturalization Act, to be challenged and struck down in the courts.

Does any of this make sense? Well sure, if you desperately want to hate immigrants, Biden and Democrats, but not if you have any information about what it actually does. Of course, you wouldn’t get the slightest clue by heeding Miller or Johnson.

The moral and policy case for this step is obvious. Granting legal residency to spouses of US citizens keeps families intact, and enables these people to work legally. The latter will benefit both their families and the broader US economy. And letting them get green cards without having to leave the country for many years also helps prevent cruel family separations. That has obvious benefits for the immigrants, themselves, their US-citizen spouses, and their children (who are also US citizens). Don’t take my word for it! Take that of the social conservatives who have (rightly) insisted for decades that intact families are good for children, and for the broader community. If you believe in “family values,” you have every reason to support the administration’s new policy here.

But what about THE LAW, which we’re told, no one is above. Of course, that simplistic mantra has been used to great effect to justify the prosecution of Donald Trump. Whether it applies well or not, it grossly oversimplifies complex issues because the other tribe is no less inclined to make its sycophants legally stupider.

The Court’s decision upheld an important principle that goes far beyond gun control: Federal bureaucrats do not have the authority to invent new crimes by rewriting the law. All Americans, regardless of how they feel about gun rights, have a stake in that principle, which is crucial to the rule of law, the separation of powers, and the due process requirement of fair notice.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D–Conn.) saw last week’s decision as a sign that the Supreme Court plans to “fundamentally rewrite the Second Amendment,” which will “make it very hard for Congress or state legislatures to be able to regulate guns.” MSNBC commentator Joyce Vance had a similar objection: “Does the history & tradition of our country really suggest the Founding Fathers meant for the 2nd Amendment to arm Americans with guns that fire 400 to 800 rounds per minute?”

This, of course, refers to the Supreme Court’s Cargill decision, which you would think reflects the Courts endorsement of machineguns based on what Murphy, a lawyer, and Vance, a law prof and former United States Attorney, have to say. So are they that incapable of reading an opinion and grasping its holding or are they lying liars of the Miller and Johnson kind?

For as long as I’ve written SJ, I’ve tried to hold true to one foundational principle: Don’t make people stupider about the law. I may be wrong in my analysis, or I may have neglected to factor something in that should be incorporated, but I have never deliberately misled readers to believe something that I knew to be inaccurate.

These are lawyers, and while that doesn’t necessarily make them particularly bright, it does strongly suggest they can distinguish between what a policy does or what a decision holds  from whatever political spin they are selling to beat the other tribe. I can accept that politicians, academics and ideologues do this with abandon because they either don’t know better or just don’t care. I cannot, however, accept lawyers lying about the law to make people stupider.

Legal ethics are supposed to matter. They matter to me. They matter to a great many lawyers. There is no excuse for deliberately violating our ethical duty not to lie about the law and not to make non-lawyers stupider because it serves their political or ideological purpose.

9 thoughts on “Lying Lawyers are Inexcusable Liars

  1. Moose

    For a lawyer acting as a lawyer, lying is probably inexcusable. For a lawyer acting as a politician not so much. Lying is a job function for a politician

  2. Miles

    Having watched a good deal of MSNBC legal commentary, I’m disgusted by the lack of quality and competence. But much of the time, it seems the primary problem is that they use the wrong lawyers for the wrong commentary, like former federal prosecutors to “explain” state landlord/tenant law. But then, nobody forces these lawyers to spew nonsense they know nothing about. Yet they do, shamelessly, ignorantly and to the detriment of anyone watching.

    This should be a disbarable offense.

    1. PK

      To the detriment of me when I have to correct people with nonsense ideas about the law they heard from one of these clowns. Though I shouldn’t complain much about doing my duty, I wouldn’t have to as much if they didn’t spew their crap.

      And to the detriment of other lawyers and society and the rule of law in general and all that, but I’m nothing if not self-centered.

  3. JMK

    I realize the main point you’re making here is related to law and lawyers and not policy, and I also realize that today is not Tuesday, so I understand if you trash this comment. With that said, i think one of your statements deserves challenge:

    >It’s a good thing, no matter what your political views.

    Is it?

    Does this policy not amount to an amnesty for those who enter the county unlawfully, manage to stay under the radar for ten years, and marry an American citizen along the way? Given that people detained unlawfully crossing the border are being told it will be ten years before they face an immigration hearing (Associated Press, 4/26/23) does this simply not present a future fait accompli, that all who get married in that period will get to stay regardless of the outcome of that hearing?

    To bring this back to your main thrust of attorneys being dishonest when they should know better, is “this amnesty plan will only incentivize more illegal immigration” really a falsehood, or is it actually a plausible prediction of the results of this policy?

    1. Bryan Burroughs

      So, lemme get this straight… You’re wringing your hands over whether this might attract the kinds of immigrants who *checks notes* won’t break the law for at least 10-15 years? Gotta be honest, I’ll take that. Hell, that’s a significantly higher bar than some GOP Presidential candidates can muster these days.

  4. phv3773

    Think of it in the context of the Statute of Limitations and persons who have done much more harm to society.

    There is something dog whistleish about the use of the word amnesty.


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