30 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2020
Date Written: October 1, 2020
Consider this scenario: Two judges with parallel cases are each ready to issue an injunction. But their injunctions may clash, ordering incompatible actions by the defendant. Each judge has written an opinion justifying her own intended relief, but the need to avoid conflicting injunctions presses her to make a further choice—“Should I issue the injunction or should I stay it for now?” Each must make this decision in anticipation of what the other will do.
This Article analyzes such a judicial coordination problem, drawing on recent examples including the DACA cases and the “sanctuary cities” cases. It then proposes a solution: When faced with a possible clash of injunctions, each district judge should issue or stay her intended relief in accordance with the real-world outcome she thinks the majority of district judges would choose. Following such a shared convention, judges with diverse views will have a better chance of avoiding a clash because their estimates of the majority view are probably more similar than their individual views. And a stay would not signify abandoning a judge’s own views (which are still fully aired in her written opinion) but would instead reflect an awareness that other judges’ views may differ—akin to the existing practice of a stay pending appeal. Notable complications are addressed, including the first-mover advantage of the earliest judge to act; the role of the appeals courts; the possibility of circuit splits; and how such a shared convention might break down.
Keywords: Conflicting injunctions, universal injunctions, nationwide injunctions, DACA, sanctuary cities, judicial review, federal courts, federal judges, comity, coordination game, focal point
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