Lawyers for the state of Hawaii appear likely to be the first to pursue a court challenge to President Trump’s new order limiting immigration from six Mideast nations. That challenge is due to be filed in Honolulu on Wednesday. Similar lawsuits are expected to be filed elsewhere.
Under a schedule that Trump Administration lawyers joined in proposing. Hawaii’s constitutional challenge would come up for a hearing on the morning of March 15, just hours before the new Executive Order is set to go into effect that evening. (Hawaii time is five hours behind East Coast time.)
The President signed the new order, modified from an earlier version issued in late January but blocked by federal court orders, on Monday. But the new order’s effective date was delayed for ten days — a point that challenging lawyers are expected to use as an argument that there is no urgent need for the restrictions and there is no pressing national security threat.
The new Hawaii case will begin in the District Court of Judge Derrick K. Watson. He handled that state’s earlier challenge to the original Trump order. That case, however, was put on hold by the judge at the federal government’s request on February 9, because a separate case filed against the first order by the states of Washington and Minnesota had reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
That is the Circuit Court that hears appeals from West Coast states and from Hawaii. That court refused to allow the first Trump order to be enforced. (Technically, the Washington-Minnesota case had remained active in the Ninth Circuit Court, but Administration lawyers on Tuesday voluntary withdrew their appeal in that case.)
Hawaii’s lawyers told Judge Watson on Tuesday that their new legal complaint, along with a request for a temporary court order blocking enforcement of the new Executive Order, will be filed promptly. If the judge agrees with the schedule proposed jointly by the two sides, the first documents will be filed by the state on Wednesday, the government response would be due on March 13, and the state’s reply by noon on March 14. A hearing, with at least some of the lawyers participating by telephone, would be on March 15.
The new Trump order includes a number of changes that federal officials believed would overcome the legal flaws that the Ninth Circuit Court and a federal trial judge in Seattle had found in the original attempt to curb immigration from seven Mideast countries that have Muslim majority populations. The new order targets six of those same nations, but leaves Iraq off of the list.
Lawyers for a number of states and for civil rights groups have made public statements that the new version is similarly flawed, under both the Constitution and federal immigration laws.
Those arguments will now be tested as the new Hawaii case, and no doubt others, move quickly through federal courts.