Judge in pipeline case stresses importance of law

BISMARCK—The judge who will decide the immediate future of the Dakota Access Pipeline expressed his belief during his confirmation proceedings that the U.S. Constitution and judicial precedent should lead to a judge’s decisions.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in 2010 responded to questions from U.S. Sens. Jeff Sessions and Tom Coburn about his judicial philosophies. Boasberg’s answers tended to stress the importance of following the law. Neither empathy nor sympathy should play a role, he wrote.

“Judges should not work from a desired outcome in assessing the law and facts. Instead, they should follow the law and facts to whatever outcome they dictate,” he wrote.

Boasberg will decide whether to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline while the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe pursues a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The tribe alleges the corps violated the National Historic Preservation Act while permitting the pipeline, which would take Bakken oil to Illinois. Boasberg plans to rule on the injunction by Sept. 9.

According to his biography on the court’s website, Boasberg attended college at Yale, received a master’s in modern European history from Oxford University, then went back to Yale for law school.

Boasberg served as a law clerk in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District, then worked in litigation at two law firms. He served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., specializing in homicide prosecutions before becoming as an associate judge in the District of Columbia Superior Court.

Pres. Barack Obama in 2010 nominated Boasberg to the District Court for the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Senate in March 2011 confirmed the nomination by a 96-0 vote.

According to his public questionnaire at the time of his nomination to the district court, Boasberg has never served in political campaigns or political parties.

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in May 2014 appointed Boasberg to the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, an 11-judge court that rules on whether the government can use various investigative actions for foreign intelligence purposes.

Since his appointment, Boasberg has presided over several high-publicity cases. In 2015, he ordered the Obama administration to stop detaining immigrants solely for the purpose of deterring others from immigrating illegally, according to the New York Times. Boasberg also earlier this week ordered the U.S. State Department to release additional emails from Hillary Clinton’s time as Secretary of State, the Times also reported.

Boasberg in April was ranked No. 1 in a list of seven “rising star” district court judges by legal website Above the Law, as determined by how often other judges cited him in their opinions. The website also called him one of the most influential new judges.

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