Thursday, May 25, 2017

4th Circuit En Banc Upholds Preliminary Injunction Against Trump's Second Travel Ban Executive Order

Today the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals sitting en banc upheld (with a minor exception) the nationwide preliminary injunction entered by a Maryland federal district court barring enforcement of a major provision of President Trump's second travel ban Executive Order.  By a 10-3 vote, in a series of opinions spanning 205 pages, the Court of Appeals in International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, (4th Cir., May 25, 2017), affirmed the award of a preliminary injunction against enforcement of Section 2(c) of the Executive Order which imposes a 90-day suspension on entry into the country of nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The Court however-- in a step that has little practical significance-- limited the injunction to various cabinet officers and departments and their officers, agents and employees, but lifted the injunction against to the President himself.

The majority opinion, written by Chief Judge Gregory (joined in full by 6 other judges and in part by 2 more (with one judge joining only in the judgment), focused on the Establishment Clause.  The Court said in part:
The question for this Court, distilled to its essential form, is whether the Constitution ... remains “a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace.” And if so, whether it protects Plaintiffs’ right to challenge an Executive Order that in text speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.
Judge Keenan joined by Judge Thacker filed a concurring opinion indicating that they would also uphold the preliminary injunction because the President failed to make adequate finding as required under 8 U.S.C. § 1182(f) before he can exclude a group of aliens that entry of that group of aliens would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.

Judge Wynn filed a concurring opinion indicating that he would also find that the Executive Order exceeded the President's authority under the Immigration Act.  Judge Thacker also filed a concurring opinion, stating that he concurred even though he would not consider statements made by candidate Trump before he took the oath of office as relevant.

Judges Niemeyer, Shedd and Agee, each writing a dissenting opinion concurred in by the others. The opinions, among other things, objected to the consideration of campaign statements "to recast a later-issued executive order," and argued that plaintiffs lacked standing.

The Washington Post reporting on the decision notes:
All of the judges in the majority were placed on the court by Democratic presidents and the three dissenting judges ... were all nominated to the bench by Republican presidents.
UPDATE: Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Thursday that the government will seek review of the decision in the U.S. Supreme Court.