Wall Street Journal
By Brent Kendall
March 23, 2017
A federal appeals court on Thursday agreed to speed up consideration of President Donald Trump’s revised executive order barring U.S. entry for people from six Muslim-majority countries, setting oral arguments for May 8.
The move, by the Fourth U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Richmond, Va., came in response to a Justice Department request to expedite the case. The appeals court schedule isn’t as fast as the department asked for, but it does move the case along more quickly than the court originally planned.
A Justice Department spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Fourth Circuit will be considering a Maryland judge’s ruling from last week that blocked Mr. Trump from enforcing his revised executive order barring travel to the U.S. by people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, a move the administration says is necessary to protect the U.S. from terrorism.
That ruling came within hours of a Hawaii judge’s ruling that also blocked the travel ban. The Hawaii judge additionally blocked a part of the executive order that suspended the U.S. refugee program. The Justice Department is expected to appeal the Hawaii ruling, too, though it hasn’t done so yet.
The department cited the national security issue as a primary reason why the Fourth Circuit should move quickly to issue a ruling.
The accelerated schedule means the White House could get legal clarity—and a potential trip to the Supreme Court—sooner than if the case proceeded at a regular pace.
Both the Maryland and Hawaii judges put the executive order on hold after finding the president likely had engaged in religious discrimination, an assertion strongly rejected by the White House and the Justice Department.
The president’s original executive order, which contained broader travel restrictions, was suspended last month by a Seattle judge and then by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Mr. Trump rewrote the order and signed it March 6, a move that set off a new round of litigation.
The Fourth Circuit on Thursday set two sets of schedules for the parties to submit legal briefs.
Briefing on the merits of the Maryland judge’s ruling is scheduled to wrap up by April 21. It isn’t yet known which Fourth Circuit judges will be assigned to preside over the May 8 oral arguments.
Briefs on the government’s upcoming request to stay, or suspend, the judge’s ruling during the appeal are set for a quicker schedule. The Justice Department said it intends to file the motion Friday, and all legal briefs on that issue are due by April 5.
The Justice Department’s decision to make a request that the Fourth Circuit speed up its schedule before making a similar request of the Ninth Circuit could suggest a wariness of the Ninth Circuit, which upheld a national ban of the original order.
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