The Department of Justice on Friday appealed one of two federal court rulings that halted President Trump’s revised travel ban targeting six majority-Muslim countries just hours before it was set to go into effect.
In a filing in federal court, Justice lawyers indicated they were appealing a ruling by a federal judge in Maryland that struck down a portion of Trump’s revised travel ban. As of Friday afternoon, the department had not yet appealed a separate, broader ruling by a federal judge in Hawaii that first halted Trump’s second ban.
“The Department of Justice strongly disagrees with the Maryland federal district court’s ruling, and looks forward to defending the President’s Executive Order seeking to protect our Nation’s security,” the department said in a statement. The department did not comment on whether it would pursue an appeal of the Hawaii ruling.
The appeal in the Maryland decision means the case now goes to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. That court was long considered one of the most conservative in the nation, but now has more justices appointed by Democratic presidents than Republicans after President Obama made six appointments during his presidency.
“I would say it’s much more moderate,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. “I don’t know that you could say it’s a liberal court now. But it’s certainly closer to the middle than it used to be.”
If Justice also appeals the ruling out of Hawaii, it will go to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which also has a majority of justices appointed by Democratic presidents and has already ruled against Trump’s first attempt to institute a travel ban on Feb. 9.
Friday’s appeal follows a tumultuous week where Trump’s second attempt at a travel ban nearly went into effect.
The executive order, signed by Trump on March 6, bars citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days. It includes several changes from the original ban struck down in court.
Iraqi citizens were no longer included in the ban. An indefinite ban on all Syrian nationals was removed. The order made clear that nationals of the banned countries who held valid visas or legal permanent residence (known as a green card) were allowed to continue traveling. And it removed a section that gave preference to persecuted religious minorities, which Trump had indicated was designed to give immigration preference to Christians.
U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland and U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii struck down portions of the order, arguing that the changes made did not overcome the core problem of the order and that it still violated constitutional protections of religion. While any mention of religion was removed from the new order, both judges listed a series of statements from Trump and his advisers to show the motivations behind it.
“Despite these changes, the history of public statements continues to provide a convincing case that the purpose of the Second Executive Order remains the realization of the long-envisioned Muslim ban,” Chuang wrote.
Justice appeals ruling over Trump travel ban – USA TODAY