Sohoni on Nationwide Injunctions

by Christopher J. Walker — Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019@chris_j_walker

Nationwide or universal injunctions continue to be a hot topic in administrative law and federal courts, with Sam Bray leading the charge (at least in the legal academy) to get rid of them — as I noted in a prior post.

Mila Sohoni has come to the nationwide injunction’s defense, at least as a constitutional matter. In a fascinating new paper forthcoming in the Harvard Law Review, Sohoni charts The Lost History of the “Universal” Injunction. I wish I had more time to blog about the substance of the paper, but for now I wanted to flag its existence and encourage others to check it out. Here’s the abstract:

The issuance of injunctions that reach beyond just the plaintiffs has recently become the subject of a mounting wave of censorious commentary, including by members of Congress, a Supreme Court justice, the Solicitor General, the Attorney General, and the President. Critics of these “universal” injunctions have claimed that such injunctions are a recent invention and that they exceed the power conferred by Article III to decide cases “in … equity.” This Article rebuts the proposition that the universal injunction is a recent invention and that it violates Article III or the traditional limits of equity as practiced by the federal courts. As far back as 1913, the Supreme Court itself enjoined federal officers from enforcing a federal statute not just against the plaintiff, but against anyone, until the Court had decided the case. If the Supreme Court can issue a universal injunction against enforcement of a federal law, then — as an Article III matter — so can a lower federal court. Moreover, lower federal courts have been issuing injunctions that reach beyond the plaintiffs as to state laws in cases that date back more than a century, and the Supreme Court has repeatedly approved of these injunctions. If Article III allows such injunctions as to state laws, it also allows such injunctions as to federal laws. Mapping these and other pieces of the lost history of the universal injunction, this Article demonstrates that the Article III objection to the universal injunction should be retired, and that the unfolding efforts to outright strip the federal courts of the tool of the universal injunction — whether by statutory fiat or by a judicial re-definition of Article III — should halt.

The current draft of the paper is available here.

 


This post is part of the Administrative Law Bridge Series, which highlights terrific scholarship in administrative law and regulation to help bridge the gap between theory and practice in the regulatory state. The Series is further explained here, and all posts in the Series can be found here.

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About Christopher J. Walker

Christopher Walker is a law professor at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Prior to joining the law faculty, Professor Walker clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court and worked on the Civil Appellate Staff at the U.S. Department of Justice. His publications have appeared in the California Law Review, Michigan Law Review, Stanford Law Review, and University of Pennsylvania Law Review, among others. Outside the law school, he serves as one of forty Public Members of the Administrative Conference of the United States and as Chair-Elect of the American Bar Association’s Section on Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice. He blogs regularly at the Yale Journal on Regulation.

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