Judge rejects Sean Spicer’s lawsuit challenging his firing from Naval Academy board

Mr Spicer currently hosts a show on Newsmax and is a commander in the US Naval Reserve

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Monday 06 December 2021 23:13
Comments
<p>It’s doubtful whether Sean Spicer could even give the dates of the First World War</p>

It’s doubtful whether Sean Spicer could even give the dates of the First World War

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer can visit the US Naval Academy if he wants, but it won’t be as a member of the university’s board of visitors.

A District of Columbia federal judge on Monday rejected a lawsuit challenging President Joe Biden’s decision to remove Mr Spicer and ex-Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought from the 15-member body in September.

Mr Spicer, who currently hosts a nightly show on Newsmax, and Mr Vought, who leads a pro-Trump think tank, had both been appointed to the board by former president Donald Trump despite the fact that neither had attended the Naval Academy – or any US service academy – though Mr Spicer does hold a reserve naval officer’s commission at the rank of commander and earned a master’s degree from the Naval War College in 2012.

On 8 September, Mr Spicer and Mr Vought received emails from an assistant to Mr Biden which said they would be removed from the board if they did not resign by close of business that day, along with formal letters from White House Personnel Office Director Catherine Russell requesting their resignations.

The ex-Trump White House officials filed suit against Mr Biden just over two weeks later seeking to have the decision rescinded, and asked a judge for an injunction to that effect last month.

But in a 12-page opinion released on Monday, US District Judge Dabney Freidrich ruled that neither Mr Spicer nor Mr Vought is entitled to an injunction restoring them to their former roles because the statute setting a three-year term for each member of the board is meant to constrain the amount of time each member serves on it, not prevent the president from removing a given member.

“To start, the only role of Board is to advise the president on the performance of a quintessentially executive function: the command and supervision of the Armed Forces. Because Board members lack any non-advisory authority, Congress had little cause to insulate them from removal. Further, because Board members are plainly executive officials, barring their removal would raise ‘serious constitutional concerns’ given the President’s ‘power of appointment and removal of executive officers,’” Judge Dabney wrote.

Judge Dabney, who was appointed to the District of Columbia District Court by Messrs Spicer and Vought’s former boss, added that they did not meet the legal standard which requires they show how they or the public would be irreparably harmed by not being restored to the board immediately.

“Although the plaintiffs express an interest in attending a Board meeting on December 6, 2021, they give no account of why missing that meeting would be personally injurious … and although the plaintiffs argue that their removal from the Board would ‘silence dissenting views,’ they give no indication that their views on the governance of the Naval Academy actually differ from the other Board members. Nor do they explain how it would serve the public interest to present advice to the President — the primary function of the Board — that the President does not intend to consider,” she wrote.

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