On principle, I do not follow *shudder* President Trump on Twitter, but even I didn't miss his SEE YOU IN COURT tweet that he published after his discriminatory Muslim ban was blocked by a federal court in California, after it was halted by a judge in Washington. While this tweet showed a surprising grasp of the judicial system for a man who may think Fredrick Douglass is still alive, the whole case raised some questions for me. Why did one federal judge in Washington, and later a circuit court in California, have the power to block a ruling across the nation?
For the answer to that question, we have to go all the way back to 1803, and the landmark Marbury v. Madison case. This decision, authored by Chief Justice John Marshall, gave federal courts and the Supreme Court the power of judicial review, allowing them to strike down laws passed by Congress (or the President) that were in violation of the Constitution. Usually, Americans only hear about the Supreme Court striking down laws, but that is only because it's the last step for people. Federal courts all around our country strike down unconstitutional federal laws all the time. Many times, these rulings do not make the news. But with Trump, everything makes the news.
In the past courts have chosen not to rule on matters of national security, because so much of the information is confidential. But that did not stop a federal judge in Washington state from freezing the enforcement of the two bans included in Trump's Executive Order. The administration then appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit Court, headquartered in foggy San Francisco.
Originally, Justice Robart in Washington had filed a temporary restraining order on the ban, which is intended for situation where the short term damage from an unconstitutional law would be irreversible. These orders are usually only in place for around 2 weeks, but the administration decided to fight it almost immediately, sending the case directly to the Ninth Circuit.
The Ninth Circuit unanimously ruled that the government had shown no compelling evidence for the necessity of the bill from a national security standpoint. While the court agreed that the president should be allowed deference in national security situations, they stopped short of agreeing with President Trump, who argued that the court should have no say in situations of national security.
Clearly, President Trump doesn't agree with that, and is planning to take this fight all the way to the Supreme Court. This is not a great move on his part, since if the court is split 4-4 in their decision, the Ninth Circuit ruling would stand. But the move to bar legal green card holders from seven Muslim countries has likely doomed the bill legally.
This case was brought by Washington and Minnesota, with the states arguing that this ban harmed individuals, businesses and universities. Following the ruling, the State Department began allowing people with valid visas from the seven banned countries to travel to the United States. The Trump administration now has a limited amount of time where they can ask the Ninth Circuit for a review of the decision, or they can appeal directly to the Supreme Court. So I guess, ultimately, we will see Trump in court.