Trump officials target authority of judges to issue national injunctions

Vice President Pence on Wednesday announced that the administration will challenge the ability of federal district court judges to issue nationwide injunctions that halt policies advocated by President TrumpDonald John TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed MORE.

The administration's move — aimed at pushing back at unfavorable decisions from lower courts across the country — would set the stage for a vast legal debate and battle over the role that national injunctions play in the courts.

Pence argued to supporters at an event hosted by the conservative Federalist Society that the Trump administration has been “unfairly” targeted by injunctions issued by lower courts, saying the rulings have prevented officials from implementing policies and regulations.

The vice president said that in the coming days, administration officials will seek pathways to put the issue before the Supreme Court.

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“So I say to all those gathered here: For the sake of our liberty, our security, our prosperity and the separation of powers, this era of judicial activism must come to an end,” Pence said. “The Supreme Court of the United States must clarify that district judges can decide no more than the cases before them.”

“It’s remarkable to think a Supreme Court justice has to convince four of their colleagues to uphold an injunction, but a single district court judge can issue one, effectively preventing the duly elected president of the United States from fulfilling what he believes is a constitutional duty,” Pence said.

“This obstruction at the district level is unprecedented,” he added.

The Trump administration has repeatedly seen some of its most controversial policies, like a travel ban for several Muslim-majority countries and a ban on transgender service members in the military, blocked by national injunctions but then upheld by the Supreme Court.

Activist groups have argued that the injunctions are necessary to protect those who could face harm under certain policies. But others claim injunctions have been used too liberally, and are causing federal judges to overstep the bounds of the cases presented before them.

It’s unclear exactly how the administration will bring the question before the Supreme Court. One option would involve bringing a legal challenge in a lower court questioning whether judges have the authority to issue such injunctions.

Trump has appointed two justices to the Supreme Court since taking office, helping to establish a conservative majority on the court. He has touted the confirmations of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett KavanaughBrett Michael Kavanaugh Christine Blasey Ford receives ACLU courage award Election 2020: Why I'm watching Amy and Andy Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE as among his top achievements over the past two years.

The Senate last week confirmed his 100th judicial nominee to lower courts, further reshaping the federal judiciary.

The courts most recently took issue with the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, requiring that some asylum-seekers remain in Mexico while their cases are processed in the U.S.

A federal district judge in San Francisco last month issued a national injunction on the policy. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday issued a stay on that ruling, allowing the policy to temporarily stay in place.

Trump has previously singled out the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for criticism, calling its decision on his immigration policies a “disgrace” and suggesting his critics deliberately seek to challenge his administration in the San Francisco-based court.

And Trump said last November he intended to file a “major complaint” against the court after a judge blocked the administration from denying asylum to migrants who enter the country illegally.

--Updated 5:35 p.m.