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strange new respect
Conservative Court Precedents Trip Up Trump Administration

A Supreme Court ruling once condemned by the Left is now providing legal ammunition to opponents of Trump’s immigration policies. Governing magazine reports:

Liberal sanctuary cities in California and elsewhere may well win their legal battle against President Donald Trump thanks to Supreme Court rulings once heralded by conservatives, including a 2012 opinion that shielded red states from President Barack Obama’s plans to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income Americans.

On Tuesday, a federal judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked enforcement of Trump’s sanctuary city executive order, resting his ruling on high court decisions that protected states and localities from federal meddling.

This is part of a broader phenomenon that we noted before the President’s term began: A series of Roberts Court precedents, on topics ranging from campaign finance to religious liberty to federalism, may end up tripping up Republicans now that they are in power, and winning a “strange new respect” among Democrats now that they are in the minority.

One can argue with any of these rulings—there are strong arguments against many of them—but seen from a separation-of-powers vantage point, this is an example of our Constitutional system functioning the way it’s supposed to, even in the Age of Trump. Even as the Court system becomes more politicized, there is reason to hope that legal precedents will be applied consistently, and that the rule of law will function as a constraint on both parties.

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  • Unelected Leader

    I’m confused. I spent the election watching MSM, so I know nothing and thought Trump was Adolf Hitler incarnate..right? Then why is he putting a pro-gun, anti-abortion judge on the court? Why is he letting the courts stop him? Why is he subject to the appropriations process for his wall?

  • QET

    Hmm. . . .let’s see. On the one hand, a directive to expand a social program. On the other hand, a directive to enforce existing law. The holding was that the feds could not order states to administer or expand a federal regulatory program. Yet the very same Court that said this also, 45 years prior, had no hesitation about ordering states to comply with existing laws–school desegregation laws. Apparently then the federal government, acting via its Article III branch, could compel the states to administer federal law. Something about the Constitution and federal laws thereunder being the supreme law of the land. Or something. Maybe if the Court were to decide in its infinite wisdom that the states’ and cities’ failure to comply with existing immigration law was a denial of equal protection to those immigrants who had labored through the required legal process, or something along that line, then it would again find it within the power of the federal government to coerce states and localities. Just so long as it is the Article II branch that does the coercing. Amirite?

    • Jim__L

      The answer here is for Trump to use the National Guard to enforce immigration law.

  • Matt_Thullen

    “[T]here is reason to hope that legal precedents will be applied consistently, and that the rule of law will function as a constraint on both parties.”

    No there isn’t. The refugee injunctions were based (and upheld) on legal reasoning that is so far outside the mainstream that most liberal legal commentators don’t bother defending the decisions. The federal judiciary has long held that the executive branch has the most leeway when it is acting within its Constitutional powers (such as in defending the U.S. and foreign affairs) and when Congress has specifically delegated power to the executive branch (such as giving the President vast discretionary powers in deciding who to admit to this country on a temporary basis).

    Yet a mass of liberal federal judges ignored all that, based in large part on campaign rhetoric (and pre-campaign rhetoric) from Trump, and in ruling, basically gave standing to every single person on the face of the earth to challenge executive branch decisions on visas, refugees and the like.

    Even this idiotic ruling from Orrick was meaningless. This executive order just reaffirmed existing law and practice. Read David French’s take in NRO for a fuller explanation.

    It’s nice to try and be an optimist about what liberals in judicial robes are doing, but you are the proverbial five year old kid digging through a pile of horse manure looking for a pony. Liberal judges have never hesitated to grasp at any straw to justify implementing their political preferences into law by way of ruling on cases, and it’s only going to get worse under Trump.

  • Andrew Allison

    First, let’s be clear that the Ninth Circuit rulings on this subject are ridiculous on their face. The so-called “Sanctuary Cities” are violating federal law by refusing to cooperate with INS agents, and there’s absolutely no constitutional protection for that. Whether the Feds can withhold funding is another matter which will probably be resolved by the Supreme Court.

  • FriendlyGoat

    If I was John Roberts, I would probably be saying to myself—–“You know what? Trump can roll a lot of people, but he cannot roll ME. He is not going to demand that I flip for this, flop for that, and he MAY NOT take my support of ANYTHING for granted. Sure, I’m pretty much a conservative, BUT, Trump is a wild man and I’M one of the very few men in the country who can moderate him by force. Not only that, I will likely outlast him and go down in history as the one who didn’t go completely crazy kissing his a$$ in this era.”

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