I'm truly shocked. It's like the feeling you have when you're grading blue books and you realize this one's going to have to get an F.
I finally had the time today to read the whole opinion in ACLU v. NSA... I mean, that was the whole opinion, right? I kept shuffling the pages around and looking under the table to see if there were some pages I missed...
What the hell? Was there no law clerk who had enough nerve to say, Judge, it can't go out like this? How do you ever get to the level of arrogance that keeps you from seeing when an opinion is this patently deficient? Where do you acquire the vaulting imagination that allows you think an opinion in this form will even help the side you're rushing to hand a victory to? I can see slipping into abject carelessness in a low profile case, but this is such a conspicuous case. I simply cannot fathom how a judge with any sense at all, with any assistance from law clerks who were not cowed into ridiculous submission, would file a case in this form.
I'm not talking about the normal way judges write result-oriented decisions, which is to layer in the scholarly and neutral-looking verbiage in the hope that most people will swallow it and the critics will seems like sore losers. This opinion -- beginning midway through the text -- does not even look like a rough draft. It seems as if the judge ran out of time and handed in something that was less than an outline. Much less.
The first half of the text is written in a creditable style. Most of this is the discussion of the state secrets doctrine, which concludes with a dismissal of the plaintiffs' claim challenging the data mining program. We then begin the material that leads to the judge's conclusion that the warrantless surveillance program -- known as TSP -- should be enjoined. The first few pages of this are written competently, as the judge finds that the plaintiffs are suing because they have a "distinct and palpable injury" and thus satisfy the first of the three constitutional requirements for standing to sue. Cases are cited and discussed appropriately. One could argue with the analysis, but it is what one expects from a decently written opinion.
At this point, with many issues left to discuss -- including the rest of the standing doctrine and all of the questions of statutory and constitutional law relating to TSP -- the writing falls headlong off a cliff. I have never seen anything like this. There are many sections left to the opinion, but each contains little more than preliminary verbiage -- quotes from old cases and zingers about how the Framers opposed King George III -- with tagged on conclusions about how "obviously" the Fourth Amendment/First Amendment/Separation of Powers is violated. These read like place-keeper sentences that were slated to be replaced by real analysis.
The judge grants a permanent injunction on the assertion that the requirements "have undisputedly been met." Undisputedly? No one disputed that the requirements were met? I guess that was supposed to be "indisputably." The judge drops a footnote listing the requirements for an injunction:
(1) that [the plaintiff] has suffered an irreparable injury; (2) that remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for that injury; (3) that, considering the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is warranted; and (4) that the public interest would not be disserved by a permanent injunction.The text of the opinion offers three sentences of analysis of these requirements:
The irreparable injury necessary to warrant injunctive relief is clear, as the First and Fourth Amendment rights of Plaintiffs are violated by the TSP. See Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U.S. 479, 85 S. Ct. 1116, 14 L. Ed. 2d 22 (1965). The irreparable injury conversely sustained by Defendants under this injunction may be rectified by compliance with our Constitution and/or statutory law, as amended if necessary. Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution.That's not analysis. That's a petulant refusal to take the task of judging seriously. Where is the discussion of hardship and public interest? The judge is so hot to hold the President to what she sees as his constitutional obligations. You'd think she'd take a little more care to give the appearance of adhering to hers.