Nationwide Injunctions Against the Federal Government: A Structural Approach

October
2017
Getzel Berger

When a court invalidates a federal government policy, it must then decide the scope of the remedy. A common remedy is an injunction—a judicial order prohibiting enforcement of the policy. Traditionally, lower federal courts enjoined the government only from enforcing the invalidated policy against the victorious plaintiff, leaving it in place against other members of the public. A nationwide injunction, however, forbids the government from enforcing the policy against anyone in the country, effectively taking the policy out of circulation. This Note argues that nationwide injunctions contravene three core structural principles of the federal courts: (1) the regional design of the courts of appeals without intercircuit stare decisis, (2) the Supreme Court’s holding in United States v. Mendoza that the federal government is not subject to non-mutual issue preclusion, and (3) the doctrine of intercircuit nonacquiescence. It concludes that nationwide injunctions against the federal government should be disfavored and that such injunctions should not extend beyond the circuit of the enjoining court. Simply put, lower federal courts should not make nationwide law.

This article appears in the October 2017 Issue: Volume 92, Number 4
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