The U.S. Supreme Court appears somewhat irritated with federal courts that have repeatedly barred the Trump administration from enforcing immigration policies halting the entry of certain classes of migrants and refugees.
First, the Supreme Court is quite clearly expressing its view that the government will prevail on the merits of this dispute. The Court would not grant an application with these facts if a majority of the justices did not believe the administration will ultimately be vindicated. As such, the orders appear to be a signal to the 4th and 9th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal, two venues currently adjudicating travel ban challenges — proceed prudently, and with sufficient respect for the presumption that the administration is acting in good faith.
Secondly, the Court, for the most part, spoke as an institution. The order was forthright and terse, suggesting the Court sees little ambiguity in this case. The sober style means to communicate decisiveness, competence and the sense that the Court is conducting its business without dramatics, unlike the rest of the government. What’s more, just two of the nine justices registered their dissent. Given these facts, it appears the justices are doing their best to speak as a Court and not as an amalgamation of nine separate jurists.
Third, the order instructs the 4th and 9th Circuits to “render [their] decision with appropriate dispatch.” This language is highly unusual in a Supreme Court order. It seems to suggest that the justices plan to take the case themselves, and dispose of it as quickly as possible. Timing is especially relevant here. The Court’s current term ends in June, leaving just six months from this writing for briefing, argument, and deliberation.
All told, the coalition of civil rights groups and Democratic attorneys general fighting the latest iteration of Trump’s travel restrictions would seem to have trouble ahead of them.
The 9th Circuit will hear a travel ban challenge Wednesday, and the 4th Circuit will hear a second challenge Friday. Decisions are expected before the end of the year.
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