Should district court judges be allowed to issue nationwide injunctions? | The Tylt
The Supreme Court has struck down a nationwide stay on the Trump administration's ban on transgender people serving in the military. While a district court judge stayed the policy, the Supreme Court has now declared it will go into immediate effect. The Trump administration has been pushing back against these nationwide bans ever since a judge in Hawaii placed a stay on his initial Muslim ban. Some say the rulings are examples of the judicial branch overreaching, while others say they are necessary for emergencies. What do you think?
Should district court judges be allowed to issue nationwide injunctions?
The Supreme Court struck down the stay after Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco requested emergency relief from the court. The New York Times reports:
“It is with great reluctance that we seek such emergency relief in this court,” Mr. Francisco wrote. “Unfortunately, this case is part of a growing trend in which federal district courts, at the behest of particular plaintiffs, have issued nationwide injunctions, typically on a preliminary basis, against major policy initiatives.”
“Such injunctions previously were rare, but in recent years they have become routine,” he wrote. “In less than two years, federal courts have issued 25 of them, blocking a wide range of significant policies involving national security, national defense, immigration and domestic issues.”
The judge who issued the initial injunction felt the policy was so flawed and potentially detrimental to the country that it had to be immediately suspended until the legal issues were solved. Per the Atlantic:
The judge took issue with everything from the framing of the directive to the way it was delivered, finding that “there is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effect on the military at all.” While the case is still in preliminary stages, the decision will at least temporarily halt the enforcement of the ban, signaling a tough legal battle ahead as the administration pushes to implement the president’s policy.
Many legal scholars agree with the Trump administration that these injunctions are an example of dramatic judicial overreach. Law professors Nicholas Bagley and Samuel Bray wrote in the Atlantic that national injunctions create a myriad of legal problems.
Under the Constitution, a plaintiff must have standing in order to sue, which means she has to show that the relief she seeks will remedy an injury that she’s suffered. She doesn’t have standing, however, to seek relief for someone who has not brought a lawsuit. That’s one reason the Supreme Court has insisted that “injunctive relief should be no more burdensome to the defendant than necessary to provide complete relief to the plaintiffs.”
The Washington Post reports that scholars and judges disagree, claiming if a law or policy has far-reaching, negative ramifications, that relief should also be far-reaching and negate these ramifications.
It shows with utter clarity the logic of the national injunction. The court’s argument boils down to a simple proposition: If the extent of the violation is nationwide, the scope of the remedy should be nationwide. Once that proposition is accepted, the national injunction will have become the norm for all challenges to the validity of a federal statute, regulation, or order. Indeed, that there is no limit to this proposition is clear because of the justification given by the court: Its national injunction is required by the rule of law. In the court’s words, “The rule of law is undermined where a court holds that the Attorney General is likely engaging in legally unauthorized conduct, but nevertheless allows that conduct in other jurisdictions across the country” (p. 14).
Jason L. Riley writes in the Wall Street Journal that injunctions completely upend the structure of the judiciary, circumventing layers that are supposed to provide the American public with the justest rulings possible.
“These injunctions are beginning to take a toll on the federal court system—preventing legal questions from percolating through the federal courts, encouraging forum shopping and making every case a national emergency for the courts and for the Executive Branch,” Justice Thomas writes. “If their popularity continues, this Court must address their legality.” The same concern is echoed by a growing number of legal scholars, who worry that the national-injunction trend will result in the Supreme Court reviewing hastily considered lower court rulings that never had the chance to work their way up the system.
Amanda Frost, a law professor at American University states in the Yale Politic that when the chief executive acts in a unilateral way, it empowers the judiciary to respond in kind.
Frost argues that nationwide injunctions are appropriate in response to the recent overuse of executive action by Trump, but also by Obama. She argues that, “When the executive acts alone, especially if there is no clear sanction by Congress…there is more leeway for checking him than when the political branches act together. His action is more constitutionally suspect if he pushes the boundaries of what we think the federal government can do.”