Justice Department attorney Carl Nichols didn’t get through his first full sentence defending the constitutionality of retroactive immunity for spying telecom carriers before U.S. district judge Vaughn Walker interrupted to ask about President-elect Barack Obama.
“We are going to have new attorney general,” Walker interjected in Tuesday morning’s hearing in a San Francisco courthouse. “Why shouldn’t the court wait to see what the new attorney general will do?”
At issue in the latest hearing in the EFF’s lawsuit against AT&T for alleged complicity in illegal wiretapping is whether Congress has the right to free the nation’s telecoms from the lawsuits pending against them.
Nichols is arguing that Obama’s Justice Department will continue to defend the immunity statute. (Obama voted for the bill but held his nose on the immunity provisions.)
“The Department of Justice rarely, if ever, declines to defend the constitutionality of a statute,” Nichols said. “It’s very, very unlikely for a future DOJ to decline to defend the constitutionality of this statute.”