A gavel sits on a desk inside the Court of Appeals at the new Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center, which celebrated its official opening on Monday Jan. 14, 2013, in Denver. 
Photo by Brennan Linsley/AP

Trump admin loses in court ‘because they’re not doing their homework’


The Trump administration has an extraordinary track record for failure in federal courts. One longtime career official at the Justice Department told the Washington Post that in his 30 years at the department, he never saw a presidential administration lose so often, so quickly.

The Post had a fascinating report yesterday explaining why Donald Trump’s team has struggled so badly.

Federal judges have ruled against the Trump administration at least 63 times over the past two years, an extraordinary record of legal defeat that has stymied large parts of the president’s agenda on the environment, immigration and other matters.

In case after case, judges have rebuked Trump officials for failing to follow the most basic rules of governance, including providing legitimate explanations for shifts in policy, supported by facts and, where required, public input. […]

[T]he rulings so far paint a remarkable portrait of a government rushing to implement sweeping changes in policy without regard for longstanding rules against arbitrary and capricious behavior.

Georgetown Law School’s William Buzbee told the newspaper that in regulatory cases, Trump administration officials are “making it very easy for the courts to reject them because they’re not doing their homework.”

The Post focused particular attention on the relatively obscure Administrative Procedure Act, approved in 1946 to limit the reach of various federal agencies. In recent years, administrations have won APA cases about 70% of the time.

The Trump administration has won about 6% of these cases.

The whole article is worth your time, but as you read it, keep something in mind: I write often about Republicans and their post-policy tendencies – one of these days, I might even write a book on the subject – and the degree to which this undermines the party’s approach to governing.

This is generally seen as a harsh criticism of the contemporary GOP, but reports like the Post’s article approach the issue from the opposite direction: if you’re a conservative who wants the Trump agenda to succeed, you want to see the administration win these court cases. Except they’re losing, not because nefarious liberals in black robes are being unfair, but because too often, Team Trump doesn’t know what it’s doing.

Update:  The Post also spoke to a pro-deregulation attorney, whom you’d expect to be on the White House’s side. The article said the lawyer has seen the administration make errors so basic that “he has to wonder whether agency officials are more interested in announcing policy shifts than in actually implementing them.”