Three federal appellate judges meeting in San Francisco today will confront a hugely consequential challenge to President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order temporarily banning travel to the United States by citizens of seven Muslim nations.
We know what will happen; at least, enough to answer some pressing questions.
First, can I get the Who, What, When and Where?
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hold an hour-long oral argument at the James R. Browning Courthouse. Starting at 3 p.m. Pacific time (6 p.m. Eastern), attorneys for the Justice Department and Washington state will get 30 minutes each to make their case.
Specifically, the Trump administration’s Justice Department will be asking the panel to reverse a Seattle-based trial judge’s Feb. 3 decision blocking the president’s executive order.
Can I watch?
Yes. Unlike the steadfastly camera-free Supreme Court, some federal appellate courts have shown themselves more open to electronic media coverage.
The 9th Circuit has established a web page for live-streaming the oral argument.
The hearing will be conducted by telephone, so the stream will be audio only and there will be no courtroom proceedings or associated video feed.
Great! How can I get ready for the fireworks?
By doing some homework. Fortunately, here, too, the 9th Circuit has made it easier for members of the public. A special web page offers up the myriad court orders and briefs associated with the case.
Check out, in particular, the various amicus briefs filed by a lot of opponents of the travel ban and by a smaller number of supporters, the latter of which include the Gun Owners of America and the English First Foundation. The amicus briefs rehearse the important themes of the case. When you start to recognize the arguments as ones you’ve heard before, you know your preparations are done.
Who are these judges that will hear the case?
Two are Democratic appointees and one was appointed by a Republican. Be careful, though, in putting too much weight on supposed partisan affiliation. The Seattle-based trial judge who infuriated Trump by blocking the executive order, U.S. District Judge James Robart, was appointed by President George W. Bush.
With that caveat, Judge William C. Canby, Jr., 85, is a Yale graduate appointed by President Jimmy Carter. Judge Michelle T. Friedland, 44, is a Stanford graduate appointed by President Barack Obama. Judge Richard R. Clifton, 66, is a Princeton graduate appointed by President George W. Bush.
What are the questions they face?
The Justice Department says the trial judge’s temporary restraining order “contravenes the constitutional separation of powers; harms the public by thwarting enforcement of an Executive Order issued by the nation’s elected representative responsible for immigration matters and foreign affairs; and second-guesses the President’s national security judgment.”
Washington state, joined by Minnesota, says restoring Trump’s executive order would “unleash chaos again,” and that government officials “offer no evidence” of irreparable harm if the executive order stays blocked.
So, what happens next?
The three-judge panel will rule, probably soon, and then it’s Supreme Court, here we come.