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SCOTUS Vacates Fourth Circuit Travel Ban Ruling

By George Khoury, Esq. on October 11, 2017 4:45 PM

This week, SCOTUS issued an order in one of the two hotly contested and widely watched travel ban cases under review. The High Court ordered that the Fourth Circuit judgment upholding the district court's injunction be vacated, and that the matter be remanded back to the Fourth Circuit with instructions to dismiss the challenge as moot.

For those keeping a close eye on the controversial travel bans, the case that was ordered dismissed was the Trump v. International Refugee Assistance case. This case challenged the second travel ban, enacted on March 6, 2017, Executive Order 13,780, which attempted to cure the deficiencies pointed out by the court in the first travel ban, Executive Order 13,769.

Vacating a Worthless Injunction

In the short one page order of the court, it explains that there is no more live case or controversy due to the fact that the terminating date for Executive Order 13,780 passed last month.

For the court, this meant that taking any action would not provide any relief to any of the parties in interest. If the federal government prevailed, it would be of no consequence because the EO has expired. If the challengers prevailed, again, it would be of no consequence because the EO already expired. As such, the challenge to the injunction was remanded to the Fourth Circuit with specific instructions to dismiss the challenge as moot.

Dissenting Opinion

In a short concluding sentence, the order of the court explains that Justice Sonya Sotomayor disagreed with the order to vacate the lower district court's ruling. Rather, Justice Sotomayor thought the High Court should have dismissed the writ of certiorari as "improvidently granted," meaning that the justices should have never agreed to take the case up in the first place given the expiration of the EO.

A Matter of Time

Since the expiration date set for the first travel ban is just a few weeks away, SCOTUS may be waiting for that date to pass before issuing a similar ruling. After all, why rule on something that'll just be moot in a few weeks anyway. But that really begs the question of why the court didn't opt to agree with Justice Sotomayor.

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