Thursday, February 15, 2018

Fourth Circuit En Banc Affirms Injunction Against Trump's Travel Ban 3.0

In its 285 page opinions in IRAP v. Trump, the Fourth Circuit en banc majority has found that the so-called Travel Ban 3.0,  Presidential Proclamation 9645, entitled “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats”of  September 24, 2017, is essentially intended as a Muslim Ban and thus there is a likelihood of success on the merits of the First Amendment Establishment Clause challenge meriting a preliminary injunction. 

The majority is composed of nine judges, with four judges (including a Senior Judge) dissenting. Some judges in the majority also wrote concurring opinions that would also grant relief on the statutory claims.

Recall that in October, Maryland District Judge Theodore Chuang has issued a nationwide injunction against the so-called "Muslim Ban 3.0" in an almost 100 page opinion, shortly after Hawai'i District Judge Derrick Watson had issued a nationwide injunction based largely on statutory grounds, which the Ninth Circuit affirmed. 

Recall also that SCOTUS granted certiorari to the Ninth Circuit's opinion, adding the Establishment Clause issue to the questions to be considered.  Most likely this case will be added to the SCOTUS docket.

The majority opinion by Chief Judge Gregory, after setting out the litigation history and preliminary injunction standard, delves into the Establishment Clause issue. Chief Judge Gregory begins by finding both that there is standing and that the case is ripe.

On the merits, Chief Judge Gregory's opinion first considers whether the proffered reason for the government act is "facially legitimate and bona fide" under Kleindienst v. Mandel (1972). The court assumes without deciding that the reason is facially legitimate, but holds that it is not bona fide:

here the Government’s proffered rationale for the Proclamation lies at odds with the statements of the President himself. Plaintiffs here do not just plausibly allege with particularity that the Proclamation’s purpose is driven by anti-Muslim bias, they offer undisputed evidence of such bias: the words of the President. This evidence includes President Trump’s disparaging comments and tweets regarding Muslims; his repeated proposals to ban Muslims from entering the United States; his subsequent explanation that he would effectuate this “Muslim” ban by targeting “territories” instead of Muslims directly; the issuance of EO-1 and EO-2, addressed only to majority-Muslim nations; and finally the issuance of the Proclamation, which not only closely tracks EO-1 and EO-2, but which President Trump and his advisors described as having the same goal as EO-1 and EO-2.

The President’s own words—publicly stating a constitutionally impermissible reason for the Proclamation—distinguish this case from those in which courts have found that the Government had satisfied Mandel’s “bona fide” prong.

Chief Judge Gregory then found that the Travel Ban 3.0 failed the Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) test which requires the government to show that its challenged action has a primary secular legislative purpose, and then, even if it does that its principal or primary effect neither advances nor inhibits religion and which does not foster ‘an excessive government entanglement with religion. Chief Judge Gregory's majority opinion concludes that Travel Ban 3.0 did not have a primary secular purpose but, like its previous incarnations, was motivated by anti-Muslim bias. Chief Judge Gregory noted the government's argument to disregard the President's pre-election statements was a difficult one to make, but stated it did not need to rely on any campaign statements "because the President’s inauguration did not herald a new day."

Among the incidents Chief Judge Gregory recounts is this one from November 28, 2017 (after the Travel Ban 3.0 September 24, 2017 Proclamation):

President Trump retweeted three disturbing anti-Muslim videos entitled: “Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!” “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!” and “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” The three videos were originally tweeted by an extremist political party whose mission is to oppose “all alien and destructive politic or religious doctrines, including . . . Islam.” When asked about the three videos, President Trump’s deputy press secretary Raj Shah responded by saying that the “President has been talking about these security issues for years now, from the campaign trail to the White House” and “the President has addressed these issues with the travel order that he issued earlier this year and the companion proclamation.” The Government does not—and, indeed, cannot—dispute that the President made these statements.

 Thus, the question of how long a "taint" of impermissible motive should persist was acknowledged and then quickly dispatched: "President Trump could have removed the taint of his prior troubling statements; for a start he could have ceased publicly disparaging Muslims." Moreover, the government initially relied on the months-long agency review to remove the taint, but

chose not to make the review publicly available and so provided a reasonable observer no basis to rely on the review. Perhaps in recognition of this, at oral argument before us the Government expressly disavowed any claim that the review could save the Proclamation. Instead, the Government conceded that the Proclamation rises and falls on its own four corners.

For the majority, then,

The contradiction between what the Proclamation says—that it merely reflects the results of a religion-neutral review—and what it does “raises serious doubts” about the Proclamation’s proffered purpose, and undermines the Government’s argument that its multi-agency review cured any earlier impermissible religious purpose.

Chief Judge Gregory's majority opinion summed up its reasoning:

Our constitutional system creates a strong presumption of legitimacy for presidential action and we often defer to the political branches on issues related to immigration and national security. But the disposition in this case is compelled by the highly unusual facts here. Plaintiffs offer undisputed evidence that the President of the United States has openly and often expressed his desire to ban those of Islamic faith from entering the United States. The Proclamation is thus not only a likely Establishment Clause violation, but also strikes at the basic notion that the government may not act based on “religious animosity.”

Finally, on the scope of the injunction, the majority opinion arguably broadened it:

To the extent that the district court held that IRAP, HIAS, and similar organizations categorically lack a qualifying bona fide relationship with their clients, we conclude that this would be an abuse of discretion. We see no need to read more into the Supreme Court’s grant of a stay than what it held: that refugees with formal assurances do not categorically enjoy a bona fide relationship with a U.S. entity. Instead, IRAP, HIAS, and other organizations that work with refugees or take on clients are subject to the same requirements as all other entities under the Supreme Court’s bona fide relationship standard: a relationship that is “formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose” of evading the travel restrictions imposed by the Proclamation.

Nevertheless, the Fourth Circuit stayed its decision, in light of the Supreme Court’s order staying the district judge's injunction pending “disposition of the Government’s petition for a writ of certiorari, if such writ is sought."

Courts and Judging, Establishment Clause, Executive Authority, First Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Recent Cases, Religion, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink


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