Today the Supreme Court announced that it had removed the challenges to President Donald Trump’s March 6 executive order, sometimes known as the “travel ban,” from its argument calendar for October. In a one-paragraph order issued this afternoon, the justices also directed the parties to file briefs by October 5 addressing whether the challenges are moot – that is, no longer an actual dispute – in the wake of two developments: Trump’s proclamation yesterday, which indefinitely restricts travel to the United States by nationals of eight countries; and the scheduled expiration of the March 6 order’s temporary suspension of the admission of refugees on October 24.
Yesterday’s proclamation came on the same day that another part of the president’s March 6 executive order, which put a temporary freeze on travel to this country by citizens of six Muslim-majority nations, was due to expire. In his proclamation, Trump explained that the federal government had, as directed in the March 6 order, evaluated the procedures that it used to vet travelers to the United States. And although he indicated that the country as a whole “has improved its capability and ability to assess whether foreign nationals attempting to enter the United States pose a security or safety threat,” Trump nonetheless extended the travel limitations with respect to five of the six countries covered by the original order – Somalia, Syria, Libya, Iran and Yemen – and imposed new restrictions on three more – North Korea, Chad and Venezuela. Those restrictions will go into effect on October 18.
Today’s order by the Supreme Court indicated that the challenges to the March 6 order had been taken off the oral argument calendar “pending further order of the Court.” The justices could eventually restore the disputes to a later argument calendar, but they could also decide that some combination of yesterday’s proclamation and the end of the refugee freeze renders the disputes moot. And that would in turn allow the justices to avoid stepping into the contentious legal and political issues surrounding the travel ban – at least for now.
This post was also republished at SCOTUSblog.com.