Washington Attorney General Scores Legal Victories Against Federal Government and Florist

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson scored two big legal victories today. The one that got the most attention is his lawsuit regarding President Trump’s travel ban, which has already been ruled in his favor on two separate occasions by four judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Department of Justice filed a 61-page document this morning with this crucial sentence:

Rather than continuing this litigation, the President intends in the near future to rescind the Order and replace it with a new, substantially revised Executive Order to eliminate what the panel erroneously thought were constitutional concerns.
President Trump confirmed this himself during his press conference today, telling reporters, “The new order is going to be very much tailored to what I consider to be a very bad decision.”
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson – who filed the initial lawsuit on behalf of the state, before being joined by his Minnesota counterpart Lori Swanson – said in a statement:
“Let’s be clear:  Today’s court filing by the federal government recognizes the obvious — the President’s current Executive Order violates the Constitution,” Ferguson said. “President Trump could have sought review of this flawed Order in the Supreme Court but declined to face yet another defeat.”
The question that remains now is what will the new executive order look like, and will there be further litigation surrounding that as well.
Ferguson’s other victory today was in the case of State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers. (Read the PDF here) At issue was a Richland florist who refused to sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding because the owner didn’t believe in marriage equality. Ferguson’s office sued the florist arguing that by doing so, it was violating the state’s Consumer Protection Act and the Washington Law Against Discrimination.  The Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the state’s favor. According to state law, businesses are not required to provide a particular service. However, if it does so for heterosexual couples, it must provide that service to same-sex couples.
In the bigger picture, this case provides a potential precedent for future litigation involving state or federal religious freedom bills that allow people to deny services if they conflict with their religious beliefs – for example, opposition to gay marriage.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Rules 3-0 Against Trump Administration

A three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in favor of Washington and Minnesota in their lawsuit against the federal government. (Read the PDF of the decision here) The ruling means the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by Judge James Robart blocking the implementation of President Trump’s travel/immigration ban is still in effect. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin called it “a complete and total repudiation of the Trump administration’s legal position in this case.” (Watch the video here)

Toobin also pointed out that the three judges who made this decision were appointed by Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, so there is no political division. In addition, Judge Robart was a George W. Bush appointee, meaning that four federal judges from both parties have ruled unanimously against the administration in two separate decisions.   If the administration appeals to the Supreme Court and the justices split 4-4, the Ninth Circuit opinion would stand, though not with the weight of a Supreme Court ruling decided by a majority of the full court.  Keep in mind there are other lawsuits that have been filed against the administration in other states, so this is not over by any means.

Here is a sampling of reactions to the Ninth Circuit’s decision:

Former National Security Officials Call Trump Executive Order “Ill-Conceived, poorly Implemented and Ill-Explained”

A group of ten former senior national security officials filed a joint declaration (Read the PDF here)  with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, saying that President Trump’s Executive Order “does not further – but instead harms – sound U.S. national security and foreign policy.” The document is short and well worth reading in its entirety, but here are the highlights:

  • “Four of us (Haines, Kerry, Monaco and Rice) were current on active intelligence regarding all credible terrorist threat streams directed against the U.S. as recently as one week before the issuance of the Jan. 27, 2017 Executive Order.”
  • “We all are nevertheless unaware of any specific threat that would justify the travel ban established by the Executive Order issued on January 27, 2017. We view the Order as one that ultimately undermines the national security of the United States, rather than making us safer. In our professional opinion, this Order cannot be justified on national security or foreign policy grounds.”
  • “There is no national security purpose for a total bar on entry for aliens from the seven named countries. Since September 11, 2001, not a single terrorist attack in the United States has been perpetrated by aliens from the countries named in the Order. Very few attacks on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001 have been traced to foreign nationals at all. The overwhelming majority of attacks have been committed by U.S. citizens.”
  •  “As a national security measure, the Order is unnecessary. National security – based immigration restrictions have consistently been tailored to respond to: (1) specific, credible threats based on individualized information, (2) the best available intelligence and (3) thorough interagency legal and policy review. This Order rests not on such tailored grounds, but rather, on (1) general bans (2) not supported by any new intelligence that the Administration has claimed, or of which we are aware, and (3) not vetted through careful interagency legal and policy review.”
  • “In our professional opinion, the Order was ill-conceived, poorly implemented and ill-explained.”
  • “The Order is of unprecedented scope. We know of no case where a President has invoked his statutory authority to suspend admission for such a broad class of people. Even after 9/11, the U.S. Government did not invoke the provisions of law cited by the Administration to broadly bar entrants based on nationality, national origin, or religious affiliation.”
  • “Maintaining the district court’s temporary restraining order while the underlying legal issues are being adjudicated would not jeopardize national security. It would simply preserve the status quo ante, still requiring that individuals be subjected to all the rigorous legal vetting processes that are currently in place. Reinstating the Executive Order would wreak havoc on innocent lives and deeply held American values.”
  • “Rebranding a proposal first advertised as a “Muslim Ban” as “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” does not disguise the Order’s discriminatory intent, or make it necessary, effective, or faithful to America’s Constitution, laws, or values.”

The signatories of the declaration are:

  • Madeleine Albright (Ambassador to the United Nations, 1993-1997. Secretary of State, 1997-2001)
  • Avril Haines (CIA Deputy Director, 2013-2015. Deputy National Security Adviser, 2015-2017)
  • Michael Hayden (NSA Director, 1999-2005. CIA Director 2006-2009)
  • John Kerry (Secretary of State, 2013-2017)
  • John McLaughlin (CIA Deputy Director, 2000-2004. Acting CIA Director, 2004)
  • Lisa Monaco (Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Deputy National Security Adviser 2013-2017)
  • Michael Morrell (Career CIA official since 1980. CIA Deputy Director 2010-2013. Acting CIA Director, 2011, 2012-2013)
  • Janet Napolitano (Secretary of Homeland Security, 2009-2013)
  • Leon Panetta (CIA Director, 2009-2011. Secretary of Defense, 2011-2013)
  • Susan Rice (Ambassador to the United Nations, 2009-2013. National Security Adviser, 2013-2017)

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Refuses to Reinstate Trump Travel Ban

A late night decision (Read the PDF here) from a three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals came down in the early hours of Sunday morning:

Washington (CNN)A federal appeals court early Sunday morning denied the US government’s emergency request to resume President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has asked for both sides to file legal briefs before the court makes its final decision after a federal judge halted the program on Friday.

What this means is that the ruling by US District Court Judge James Robart, who suspended the ban, will remain in place — for now.

The US Justice Department filed an appeal just after midnight Sunday, asking to pause Robart’s sweeping decision that temporarily halted enforcement of several key provisions of Trump’s executive order.

Lawyers from both sides have until Monday (tomorrow) to make any filings. If the Ninth Circuit upholds Robart’s TRO, expect the Department of Justice to file an appeal with the Supreme Court. If SCOTUS agrees to hear the case with its current 8 justice lineup, that means that if the opinion is a 4-4 partisan split, the Ninth Circuit opinion will stand. If the Supreme Court rules by a 5-3 majority or greater, then its opinion will supersede the Ninth Circuit’s.

Federal Government Revoked 100,000 Visas, DOJ Lawyer Tells Court

In addition to the Temporary Restraining Order issued by a federal judge in Washington, the Trump administration got more bad news out of the Eastern District of Virginia yesterday:

First, Judge Leonie Brinkema (a Clinton appointee to the federal bench) agreed to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s motion to expand the scope of individuals affected by the Trump administration’s executive law to include visa holders, in addition to to green card holders.  According to a statement from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s office, the Commonwealth will argue in favor of a motion for a preliminary injunction at a hearing scheduled for February 10.

Second, Judge Brinkema issued a one-page order (Read the PDF here) requiring the federal government to provide the Commonwealth of Virginia “a list of all persons who have been denied entry to or removed from the United States since the Executive Order entitled ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States’ was signed.” Judge Brinkema’s order applies to anyone who was a Virginia resident on the morning of January 27, 2017, and “had lawful permanent resident status, an immigrant visa (or accompanying family or spousal visa), a valid student visa (or accompanying family or spousal visa), or a valid work visa (or accompanying family or spousal visa) by the close of business on Thursday, February 9,2017.”

Third was the biggest bombshell to come out of yesterday’s hearing, which will likely cause the Trump administration no small amount of political and legal headaches for the foreseeable future. Erez Reuveni, a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Immigration Litigation, told the court, “Over 100,000 visas were revoked on Friday at 6:30 p.m.,” referring to the date the executive order was signed.  According to a Daily Beast reporter who was in the courtroom at the time:

The State Department disputed that figure, saying it was only 60,000 visas that had been revoked. Regardless of which figure is ultimately correct, why is it such a problem for the administration? Again, from Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff:

The President himself cited that same 109 figure earlier this week:

In other words, the administration downplayed the impact of the Executive Order, potentially by a magnitude of 1,000.  (That doesn’t mean that 60,000-100,000 people were detained at or deported from various airports, it means that 60,000-100,000 visas were revoked by the federal government as a consequence of the order.)

Expect all the plaintiffs filing lawsuits against the administration across the country to use that 100,000 visas figure in court and in every filing that will come up in the days and weeks ahead.

Federal Judge Issues Temporary Restraining Order Halting Trump Executive Order

Judge James L. Robart issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking the nationwide implementation of President Trump’s executive order on immigration, handing Trump’s opponents an early legal victory in the litigation surrounding the controversial order.

The TRO will remain in place while Robart considers Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit against the administration, which challenges several provisions of the executive order. (Read the PDF document here) One key excerpt:

The court finds that the States have met their burden of demonstrating that they face immediate and irreparable injury as a result of the signing and implementation of the Executive Order. The Executive Order affects the States’ residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations, and freedom to travel. These harms extend to the States by virtue of their roles as parens patriae of the residents living within their borders. In addition, the States themselves are harmed by virtue of the damage that implementation of the Executive Order has inflicted upon the operations and missions of their public universities and other institutions of higher learning, as well as injury to the States’ operations, tax bases, and public funds. These harms are significant and ongoing. Accordingly, the court concludes that a TRO against Federal Defendants is necessary until such time as the court can hear and decide the States’ request for a preliminary injunction.

The White House reaction:

The President’s reaction:

Minnesota Joins Washington Lawsuit Against Trump Administration, Hearing Set for Friday

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed an amended complaint to his state’s original lawsuit against the Trump administration, which adds Minnesota – and its attorney general, Lori Swanson – as plaintiffs.

Swanson said in a statement, “It does not pass constitutional muster, is inconsistent with our history as a nation, and undermines our national security… America can keep its people safe without sacrificing bedrock constitutional principles.”

There will be a hearing at a federal court in Seattle tomorrow (Friday) for lawyers representing Washington and the federal government. At issue will be whether or not the federal government should suspend implementation of the administration’s executive order nationwide immediately.  A ruling from Judge James Robart (a George W. Bush appointee) could come as early as 2:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.