Trump Administration Asks for More Time to File Travel Ban Briefs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -

The Trump administration on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court for 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 high court is weighing the administration’s two emergency applications asking for the ban issued on March 6 to immediately go into effect. The March ban was President Trump’s second effort to impose travel restrictions through an executive order.

In a letter, Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall said a ruling on Monday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco means the government needs to file a new brief, which he proposed doing by June 15.

In an added dramatic twist, Mr. 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.

Mr. 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.

Under the government’s scenario outlined in Mr. Wall’s letter, the Supreme Court would 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 favor 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 the president’s 90-day ban on travelers 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 favoring or disfavoring any particular religion.

Trump’s first order on Jan. 27 led to chaos and protests at airports and in various cities before being blocked by thecourts. 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.