Washington, DC, January 5, 2012 — While President Trump and his die-hard allies are still seeking to dispute the election results, his Justice Department is contending in court that Trump will vacate the White House on Inauguration Day, January 20th. In the Justice Department’s legal brief in a lawsuit brought by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) challenging the status and actions of Trump unconfirmed “temporary” appointees, Justice lawyers argue that the case “will become moot on January 20, 2021, when a new administration is sworn into office.”
The PEER litigation challenges the legality of officials leading the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management because they were appointed and continue to serve without Senate confirmation in violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. The officials named in the PEER suit are Margaret Everson at the Park Service and William Pendley at BLM.
In their filing on December 23rd, Justice lawyers argue the PEER suit should be dismissed for, among other reasons, impending mootness after Trump leaves office later this month:
“Plaintiffs’ request for prospective injunctive relief against Mr. Pendley and Ms. Everson will become moot on January 20, 2021 when a new administration is sworn into office. At that time, Mr. Pendley and Ms. Everson will, presumably, leave office, requiring that the prospective claims against them must be dismissed.” (citations omitted)
“The White House and the Department of Justice are not on the same page about the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s election as President,” remarked PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse. “The official position of the lawyers representing the people of the United States is that there will be a new President on January 20.”
Besides the legality of the appointments, PEER also maintains that major actions these illegitimate officials have taken are invalid, without legal force or effect. A parallel case brought by the Governor of Montana resulted in a court order nullifying BLM land use plans in that state. In the Montana case, the Justice Department has filed a notice of appeal.
Similar suits have already invalidated immigration orders by similarly unconfirmed officials at the Department of Homeland Security. More such suits are still working their way through the district courts and others may be filed in coming months.
“During the past four years, the Justice Department has been repeatedly tasked to defend actions that are indefensible,” added Whitehouse, an attorney formerly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “It remains to be seen how the Justice Department’s posture will change after January 20th in handling scores of lawsuits challenging Trump actions that the incoming Biden administration indicates they will repudiate.”