By Stacy James
When King, I mean, President Trump issued his Executive Order on January 27, 2017, halting immigration and travel against seven Muslim countries. The order suspended all refugee admission for 120 days and barred all Syrian refugees indefinitely. Americans immediately protested by writing signs and traveling to airports in order to stand against what they felt was the inhumane and discriminatory treatment of Muslims here in America and all over the world. Lawyers, on the other hand, protested in another manner, by writing motions and filing them with the court. Immediately, attorneys at the ACLU filed habeas corpus petitions and a class action lawsuit on behalf of those being detained at U.S airports. Judges responded in kind by upholding those motions, granting emergency stays and temporary restraining orders preventing those with visas from being deported.
Sally Caroline Quillian Yates earned a J.D from University of Georgia School of Law in 1986. She famously led the prosecution of Eric Rudolph, a U.S born former soldier who committed several acts of terrorism from 1996 to 1998 including a bombing during the 1996 Olympic Games held in Atlanta, Georgia.
In 2015, she was confirmed by the Senate (84–12) as Deputy Attorney General of the United States. During her confirmation hearing, Yates told Senator Jeff Sessions that she would have an obligation to follow the law and the Constitution and to give an independent legal advice to the president, even if that meant disobeying a president’s unlawful orders.
After President Trump took office in January 2017, he requested Yates to serve as interim Attorney General, until Senator Jeff Session, his pick to succeed Attorney General Loretta Lynch could be confirmed.
Yates held true to her words when on January 30, she ordered the Justice Department not to defend Trump’s Executive Order stating, “ I [am not] convinced that the executive order is lawful.” In response, she was summarily dismissed from her position and replaced.
Robert Watson Ferguson earned a J.D from NYU Law School. Elected as the 18th Attorney General of Washington in 2012, Watson is known for his fierce defense of the citizenry of his state from corporate giants. On January 18, 2017, Ferguson filed a multi-million dollar consumer protection lawsuit against Navient and its subsidiaries. Since taking over the debt of its former parent company Sallie Mae, Navient has become one the country’s largest loan servicers. The lawsuit alleges Navient peddled “risky and expensive” subprime private student loans that carried high-interest rates and fees. Those loans were mostly provided to students enrolled in for-profit colleges.
On January 30, in response to Trump’s Executive Order, Ferguson filed a lawsuit against the Administration on constitutional grounds alleging religious discrimination. Washington has a significant population of immigrants from various countries, including Muslim countries restricted by the travel ban, and has seen a rise in hate crimes against Muslims over the past three years, according to a February 2015 article in the Seattle Globalist.
On February 3, 2017, a judge ruled in Ferguson’s favor ordering a temporary restraining order on the enforcement of the travel ban nationwide.
Lawyers are heroes to many who find themselves the victims injustice, prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination. Lawyers committed to justice are an inspiration to law students and remind us that success is about more than grades, personal achievements, and accolades. Today more than ever the world is in need of those who will bravely fight for justice on behalf of others.