WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Trump administration more time to file papers responding to an appeals court ruling that upheld a block on a proposed travel ban on people entering the United States from six Muslim-majority countries.
The move likely delays any high court action on the administration’s two emergency applications asking for the ban issued on March 6 to immediately go into effect. The March ban was Trump’s second effort to impose travel restrictions through an executive order.
An entry on the Supreme Court docket said that the administration can file its new brief on Thursday. Hawaii, which challenged the ban and won in the appeals court, is permitted to file its own brief on June 20, meaning the court is unlikely to act on the emergency application until next week at the earliest.
The court was responding to a request made by Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall, who said in a letter that the ruling on Monday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco means the government needs to file a new brief.
In an added dramatic twist, Trump himself plans to go to the Supreme Court on Thursday for the investiture of Justice Neil Gorsuch, an administration official said. Trump nominated Gorsuch in January. Gorsuch’s confirmation by the U.S. Senate in April restored the court’s 5-4 conservative majority.
Trump’s visit to the court would be his first since he became president on Jan. 20 and would put him face-to-face with the nine justices as they consider the fate of his travel ban unless the court acts before then. It is common practice for presidents to attend such events, which are purely ceremonial.
The Supreme Court could discuss how to act on the emergency application at its private conference on June 22, a week after the Gorsuch ceremony.
Wall wrote that more time was needed because the 9th Circuit ruling in favour of the state of Hawaii is “the first addressing the executive order at issue to rest relief on statutory rather than constitutional grounds.”
Hawaii’s lawyer, Neal Katyal, filed his own letter objecting to the government’s timeline, although he agreed that both sides needed to file briefs responding to Monday’s ruling.
Federal judges in Maryland and Hawaii blocked Trump’s 90-day ban on travellers from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The Hawaii judge also blocked a 120-day ban on refugees entering the United States.
The 9th Circuit largely upheld the Hawaii injunction on Monday.
In the second case, the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, on May 25 upheld the Maryland judge’s ruling.
The lawsuits by Hawaii and the Maryland challengers argued that the executive order violated federal immigration law and a section of the Constitution’s First Amendment, which prohibits the government from favouring or disfavouring any particular religion. The Supreme Court is weighing emergency applications in both cases, but is likely to act on them together.
Trump’s first order on Jan. 27 led to chaos and protests at airports and in various cities before being blocked by the courts. The second order was intended to overcome the legal issues posed by the original ban, but was blocked by judges before it could go into effect on March 16.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; additional reporting by Steve Holland; editing by Grant McCool