NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Clinton Administration Ignore Judicial Rulings

March 12, 1997

Legal observers note an ominous trend among executive branch agencies: a tendency to ignore court decisions that don't serve their own purposes.

They say the Clinton Justice Department has contended that it adheres to court decisions only "as a matter of policy and comity," has argued that the executive branch is immune from monetary fines even if it is held in contempt for violating a direct court order, and has ignored a Supreme Court decision finding federal race-based preferences unconstitutional.

  • In 1996, a high Justice Department official sent a letter to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals asserting that "we do not believe that there is any constitutional requirement or any other inflexible rule that a federal agency must apply the legal principles announced in a court of appeals decision to the administration of a federal program...."
  • In another case, the Justice Department contends that even though the government was held in contempt for ignoring a direct court order, the government may not be forced to compensate the person harmed as a result of its lawless action.
  • Even after the Supreme Court in 1995 struck down a federal program that awarded contracts based on race, the Justice Department found that not one federal affirmative action program violated the Constitution.

Some legal scholars charge that the Clinton administration sees itself as above the law and the Constitution. They implore the courts to hang tough and teach it that the law is for everyone to follow.

Source: Daniel E. Troy (American Enterprise Institute), "Above the Law?" Wall Street Journal, March 12, 1997.


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