Donald Trump moves travel-ban fight to Virginia-based appeals court

Trump administration in a court filing says it would appeal against a ruling by Maryland’s District Judge that struck down 90-day ban on visas for people from 6 Muslim countries


A file photo of US President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP
A file photo of US President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP

New York/Manhattan/Washington: President Donald Trump took the first step to try to revive his travel ban against people from six predominantly Muslim countries, alerting the federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, that he’s challenging a Maryland judge’s block of his executive order.

The Maryland judge earlier this week put on hold Trump’s 90-day ban on visas for people from the six nations. A judge in Hawaii also signed a broader ruling that blocked a 120-day hold on admitting refugees from all countries. The two decisions, issued just before the travel ban was to take effect on 16 March, handed Trump another setback to his immigration policy.

The notice of appeal filed on Friday with the federal court in Greenbelt, Maryland, was signed by Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall. The filing for shifts the dispute to the more-conservative Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit rather than the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit that blocked Trump’s original ban.

The Fourth Circuit isn’t considered to be as liberal as the Ninth Circuit, which blocked Trump’s first travel ban, but it’s still not as conservative as it used to be, following a half-dozen judge appointments to the court by former President Barrack Obama, said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

“It used to be the most conservative court in the country, that is no longer true,” Tobias said. Nevertheless, “I do think he’ll get a fair shot there,” he said of Trump.

Order change

The president issued his revised order 6 March in hopes of fixing practical and legal problems with the original that resulted in chaos and protests at US airports and ended in court decisions preventing its implementation. Both the Maryland and Hawaii judges pointed to remarks by Trump and his advisers suggesting the real purpose behind the order was anti-Muslim bias.

In the Maryland case, brought by refugee rights groups and the American Civil Liberties Union, US District Judge Theodore Chuang issued a preliminary injunction, an order that can be immediately appealed.

“President Trump’s Muslim ban has fared miserably in the courts, and for good reason — it violates fundamental provisions of our Constitution,” ACLU lawyer Omar Jadwat said in a statement. “We look forward to defending this careful and well-reasoned decision in the appeals court.”

Lawyers in the Hawaii case are preparing for a hearing to determine whether US District Judge Derrick Watson will extend his temporary order. Watson issued the temporary order, which bars enforcement of the travel ban at least until the judge can consider whether to convert it to a preliminary injunction. Temporary orders can’t normally be appealed, which means the government may have to wait before trying to undo the Hawaii court’s block on the travel ban.

Trump’s latest executive order replaced one he issued 27 January. Within days, a judge in Seattle temporarily blocked the original travel ban from taking effect nationwide.

Appeals process

A three-judge panel of the San Francisco appeals court in February refused to reactivate the original ban. Because both the Hawaii and Maryland judges blocked the revised travel ban nationwide, the government would have to overturn both before the full order can take effect.

The Ninth Circuit has authority over federal courts in nine western states, including Hawaii and California, the most populous state. The Maryland court answers to the appeals court in Richmond, raising the possibility of differing decisions. A split would set the stage for US Supreme Court to make a final decision.

Watson, the Hawaii judge, issued an order temporarily blocking enforcement the ban on issuing visas to people from Syria, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan and a 120-day halt on admitting refugees from all nations. Chuang, in Maryland, blocked only the six-nation visa ban.

The cases are State of Hawaii v. Trump, 17-cv-00050, US District Court, District of Hawaii (Honolulu), and International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, 17-0361, US District Court of Maryland. Bloomberg

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