Two groups leading the legal fight to defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program have retained the country’s most powerful law firms to protect DACA at the Supreme Court.
That the DACA case would attract top legal talent is not surprising, especially since the litigation has reached a critical stretch.
The University of California, which sued to stop DACA’s termination in Sept. 2017, hired Covington & Burling’s Robert Long, while Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Ted Boutrous was retained to represent six DACA recipients who are individually suing the administration.
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Long and Boutrous are veteran Supreme Court advocates who have argued major cases before the justices. The high court appointed Long to argue a jurisdictional issue in NFIB v. Sebelius, the first Obamacare case, in 2012. Boutrous argued the 2011 Dukes v. Wal-Mart case, and convinced the court to invalidate the largest employment class action lawsuit in American history. Both have argued extensively in lower appeals courts.
Long practices in Covington’s Washington, D.C., offices, while Boutrous is based in Los Angeles.
The justices will decide whether to take the case in a private conference on Feb. 16. A public announcement could follow on Feb. 20, when the Court will issue orders in pending cases.
Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the federal government to continue administering DACA on Jan. 9. There are approximately 700,000 DACA beneficiaries, though the ruling does not require the government to process new applications.
Alsup, a former President Bill Clinton appointee, concluded the program’s rescission was based on a flawed legal premise, making its termination “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, [and] otherwise not in accordance with law.”
Instead of following ordinary procedure and petitioning the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Department of Justice asked the Supreme Court to hear the case immediately. Government lawyers argue the size and stakes of the program warrant an immediate and definitive ruling.
The justices rarely grant such requests.
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