Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Seattle and Boston rulings: there is no clash of the courts

Saturday, 12 noon -- CNN has been breathlessly reporting since Friday night about the coming shoot-out between the Ninth Circuit of the Federal Court System (Pacific Coast and those other closest to the left coast) and the First Circuit, covering New England. Others, like the AP, are saying the same thing.
First, the rulings are in the lower district courts, not the higher circuit (appeals) courts. They are on limited Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO's). These are only good for a week or two if granted, and are meant to preserve the status quo pending a fuller hearing, if, among other things, one of the parties would be seriously harmed otherwise. A longer-lasting renewal is called a "preliminary injunction." Neither order is a final ruling on the case, so appeal of these orders is hard to win because you have to show not that the lower court was mistaken, but that the judge was so wrong that the decision was "an abuse of discretion." In Seattle, a district judge issued a TRO against Trump's the ban altogether, ordering that its implementation stop. The State of Washington had sued, claiming the order hurts its interests, depriving it of revenue, disrupting its educational institutions, harming businesses in its state, etc. It is not over any specific individual or group of individuals. The judge decided that the state was likely to win the case (without explaining why) and indeed would suffer great harm in the meantime if the order were applied. In Boston a district judge lifted a TRO that had been issued a week ago in a lawsuit filed for two permanent residents who were detained at the Boston airport. Because of the danger the two would be deported immediately, an emergency TRO was issued at a hearing Saturday night. They were soon released, and three other permanent residents joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs. In the ruling yesterday, the court says that in relation to the five permanent residents, the issue is moot because nobody is still detained and the White House has clarified that the order doesn't apply to permanent residents. Two student visa holders currently in the United States also joined the case claiming denial of due process (which is, at a minimum, the right to be heard before an action is taken against you). The judge said that the two students had no plans to travel outside the country in the next month; that it was not clear whether their visas had been revoked; and there were no deportation proceedings under way. He also says people in general cannot sue simply over being entitled to visas even if they are entitled to due process in a deportation case. So no TRO. Finally OXFAM argued, in essence, that the rights of Americans are violated when the government prevents them from hearing a speaker from abroad. The judge didn't buy it. The Seattle ruling does not clash with the Boston one. The Boston judge declined to order the government to not apply the order against these individuals and OXFAM. But there was no immediate, concrete, specific government action involving the plaintiffs that needed to be, or could have been, stopped on an emergency basis. Some of the underlying issues in the two cases may be the same, and both will impact the public, political debate. But whether these plaintiffs in Boston were entitled to a TRO based on how they are affected individually has, basically, nothing to do with a state being entitled to a TRO because its interests would be immediately hurt. And, BTW, the Seattle judge did not say that the order was unconstitutional. That may be in the Seattle Judge's mind, but he doesn't go there in writing. He only says the State is likely to win the case, but doesn't say why he thinks so. In Boston, the judge's opinion wanders all over the place but it is clear that he is ruling on these plaintiffs based on their specific complaints. IANAL, but I have covered court cases impacting public policy for a lifetime and learned long ago to always go to the original written order if possible, and never, ever rely on what the lawyers involved claim the judge said, nor on the lawyer-pundits on TV. Also, as a court interpreter I'm pretty familiar with the lingo and procedures,.

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