The Supreme Court on Tuesday dropped one of two challenges it was considering to President Donald Trump's travel ban policy, declaring moot a lawsuit over Trump's attempt to block issuance of visas to citizens of six majority-Muslim countries. The justices did not act on Trump v. Hawaii, the challenge that it had agreed to review along with Trump v. IRAP last June.
The March 6 decree, opposed by the states of Maryland and Hawaii, was suspended.
The decision means that Hawaii's case - which dealt with both travelers and refugee admissions - remains alive, at least for the moment.
The White House at the end of September issued a new decree that permanently bars nationals of seven countries from crossing United States borders, in the interest of USA national security.
However, any effort by the court to clear the decks of the travel ban issue is likely to be short-lived. There must be an active case or controversy in order for challenges to the executive order to be heard. The justices will most likely only turn to that case after October 24, when the refugee provision of the March executive order also expires. In a one-page order, the justices sent the case back to the lower courts and ordered that the lower court's opinion be wiped from the books.
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The reason: the president issued a new version of the order last month that replaces the older version that had been the subject of litigation in the Fourth Circuit, rendering the case moot.
Among the issues raised is whether the travel ban discriminated against Muslims in violation of the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on the government favoring or disfavoring a particular religion.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote separately from the court to add that she would have dismissed the case, but allowed the lower court ruling to remain on the books.
The justices took no action on a second pending case arising from the 9th Circuit, perhaps because it focuses on refugees, and the time limit on that part of the order does not expire until late October.