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Friday, April 8, 2016

Bless his heart, the appeals court said, but that was just the warmup.

Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez ruled marriage equality illegal in Puerto Rico in the fall of 2014. After the Obergefell decision in June 2015, the Court of Appeals sent the case back for the judge to get with the program. He ruled against the Supreme Court.

This week the Court of Appeals not only smacked the judge up side the head with a two-by-four, it sent him to the federal judges’ penalty box. It’s not nice to fool with the guys who sit one court down from the supremes (emphasis added):

"The district court's ruling errs in so many respects that it is hard to know where to begin. The constitutional rights at issue here are the rights to due process and equal protection, as protected by both the Fourteenth and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Obergefell, 135 S. Ct. 2584; United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013). Those rights have already been incorporated as to Puerto Rico. Examining Bd. Of Eng'rs, Architects & Surveyors v. Flores de Otero, 426 U.S. 572, 600 (1976). And even if they had not, then the district court would have been able to decide whether they should be. See Flores de Otero, 426 U.S. at 590.

"In any event, for present purposes we need not gild the lily. Our prior mandate was clear:
Upon consideration of the parties' Joint Response Pursuant to Court Order filed June 26, 2015, we vacate the district court's Judgment in this case and remand the matter for further consider in light of Obergefell . . . . We agree with the parties' joint position that the ban is unconstitutional. Mandate to issue forthwith.

"...In ruling that the ban is not unconstitutional because the applicable constitutional right does not apply in Puerto Rico, the district court both misconstrued that right and directly contradicted our mandate. And it compounded its error (and signaled a lack of confidence in its actions), by failing to enter a final judgment to enable an appeal in ordinary course. Error of this type is not so easily insulated from review. This court may employ mandamus jurisdiction when a district court has misconstrued or otherwise failed to effectuate a mandate issued by this court. See United States v. U.S. Dist. Court for S. Dist. of N.Y., 334 U.S. 258, 263-64 (1948) ("It was held that mandamus was the proper remedy to enforce compliance with the mandate.") (citing City Nat. Bank of Ft. Worth v. Hunter, 152 U.S. 512, 515 (1894)); see also Baltimore & O.R. Co. v. United States, 279 U.S. 781, 785 (1929) ("When a lower federal court refuses to give effect to or misconstrues our mandate, its action may be controlled by this court, either upon a new appeal or by writ of mandamus."); Dep't of Navy v. Fed. Labor Relations Auth., 835 F.2d 921, 923 (1st Cir. 1987) (explaining that mandamus is an appropriate means of compelling effectuation of mandate where failure to take action might "[r]equir[e] petitioner to participate in the relitigation of issues already decided").

"Accordingly, Respondents' motion to join in the petition for writ of mandamus is granted, the petition itself is also granted, and the case is remitted to be assigned randomly by the clerk to a different judge to enter judgment in favor of the Petitioners promptly, and to conduct any further proceedings necessary in this action."

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