One of our last acts as Chair of the ABA's Section of State and Local Government Law was to green light a CLE program at the recent Chicago annual meeting entitled "State Attorneys General and Federalism in the Obama and Trump Eras."
The title kind of gives it away, but the main topic was the implications of the multitudinous lawsuits brought by states and their attorneys general against actions by the president's administration, first grabbing headlines during President Obama's tenure, and now during President Trump's. And then switching playbooks after the election, it seems.
One of the good things about the CLE programming we do in our Section is that we try and get speakers from all sides of the ideological spectrum. We think we did a pretty good job here, with (left-to-right -- geographically above, not ideologically) Wisconsin Solicitor General Misha Tseytlin (Madison, WI), William Hurd (past SG of Virginia, and currently with Troutman Sanders, Richmond, VA), Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (Salem, OR), and Northwestern U. Law School Dean Dan Rodriguez on our panel.
It was a rapid-fire 1.5 hours. For a sense of what we discussed, see "Increased Role for State AGs as Congress Shirks Duty" by Kimberly Robinson (Bloomberg's Supreme Court reporter, who joined us in the room). Also, after the session our presenters sat for a short podcast about the issues. Worth a listen.
For our contribution, try this quote from the Bloomberg story:
Now Democrats have taken a page from Republicans and filed their own suits against the Trump administration, Oregon Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum said.
Democratic concern for federalism in the face of executive overreach is welcome, Tseytlin said.
But such suits could degrade the public confidence in a neutral judiciary, Robert H. Thomas, the head of the ABA Section of State and Local Government Law, said.
Actions against the Obama administration were largely led by Republican AGs, Rodriguez said. Current litigation against the Trump administration is largely led by Democrats.
But there are a lot of bi-partisan efforts by state AGs, too, Rosenbaum said. She pointed to investigations over opioid use and data privacy.
As we noted at the session, the Democrat AG's newfound concern for so-called "states' rights" reminds us of the final scene in Casablanca, where Victor tells Rick "welcome back to the fight." Like James Bond, we never left. Do we like it when broad edicts are not being handed down from the 202 area code? Of course, that should be the default, not just when you are out of power.
And call us old school, but it seems there are enough petards being thrown about to eventually hoist everyone eventually, especially after the next election or the one after that (ad infinitum).