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A large and growing body of literature criticizes nationwide injunctions, although a handful of scholars have come to their qualified defense. The literature has focused on whether universal injunctions comport with the historic scope of federal courts’ equitable powers and are good policy to boot. Largely missing from the debate is a fulsome analysis of whether the Constitution or the Judicial Code authorizes federal courts to issue such injunctions and whether they are permissible under existing Supreme Court precedent. We argue that the answer to each question is “no.”

Parts I and II explain that no positive law authorizes universal injunctions and that the architecture of the federal judicial system strongly implies that they are overbroad. Part I discusses the Constitution; Part II, the Judicial Code. Part III explains why the Supreme Court’s decisions in United States v. Mendoza and Williams v. Zbaraz disallow that practice. That Part also addresses the policy arguments for nationwide injunctions and shows that, as long as Mendoza and Zbaraz are good law, courts cannot bind the federal government always and everywhere by an adverse judgment in one lawsuit. Our conclusion is this: the lower federal courts are obliged to provide complete relief to the party who prevailed in courtbut no further. Congress is the forum for deciding what relief should be afforded to the public at large.



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