The Trump administration received some bad news on Friday.
A federal judge ordered the removal of the Trump administration’s public lands chief, William Perry Pendley.
The apparent problem, however, is that Pendley never went through the required Senate confirmation process. He was appointed to temporarily lead the agency after the departure of Neil Kornze, the last head.
In July of this year, the Trump administration nominated Pendley to be the official director of the BLM. But the nomination was withdrawn after a number of controversial statements by Pendley were brought up.
The bottom line is that Pendley was never confirmed, and it was this that led to a lawsuit by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D).
Bullock’s argument was that Pendley ought to be removed since he hasn’t been confirmed. The Trump administration, however, has argued that Pendley does not have to be confirmed because he is just the temporary, acting head.
Chief District Judge Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court of Montana sided with Bullock, ordering Pendley to be removed.
“Pendley has served and continues to serve unlawfully as the Acting BLM Director,” Morris ruled. “His ascent to Acting BLM Director did not follow any of the permissible paths set forth by the U.S. Constitution or the (Federal Vacancies Reform Act). Pendley has not been nominated by the President and has not been confirmed by the Senate to serve as BLM Director.”
Morris added that “the President cannot shelter unconstitutional ‘temporary’ appointments for the duration of his presidency through a matryoshka doll of delegated authorities.”
Bullock celebrated the victory in a tweet on Friday. “Today’s ruling is a win for the Constitution, the rule of law, and our public lands,” he wrote. “Montanans can rest easy knowing that National Public Lands Day will begin with William Perry Pendley packing his desk and vacating the Director’s Office.”
The Trump administration, on the other hand, blasted Morris’ opinion. An appeal is expected.