Politics

The Five Judges Who Have Most Thwarted Trump’s Agenda

The president has faced continued judicial resistance on such matters as DACA, the travel ban, and the presence of transgender troops in the military

President Donald Trump’s political enemies have made a cottage industry of suing him or his administration, and the litigation has slowed down or completely blocked his agenda on key promises he made during the 2016 campaign.

The president’s defenders complain that litigants have shopped for friendly “activist” judges and argue many of the rulings fly in the face of traditional judicial review — producing judgments they never would render against another president.

Eventually, the Supreme Court will resolve many of these disputes.

But for now, the Trump administration must wait it out.

Here are the five judges who have done the most to stymie Trump.

1.) U.S. District Judge William Alsup, Northern District of California
The case: Regents of University of California, et al v. Department of Homeland Security
The dispute: Whether the administration can reverse a decision of the previous administration that created the quasi-amnesty program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
What the judge wrote: “In terminating DACA, the administrative record failed to address the 689,800 young people who had come to rely on DACA to live and to work in this country. These individuals had submitted substantial personal identifying information to the government, paid hefty fees, and planned their lives according to the dictates of DACA. The administrative record includes no consideration to the disruption a rescission would have on the lives of DACA recipients, let alone their families, employers and employees, schools and communities.”
Status: The administration has appealed the ruling to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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2.) U.S. District Judge John Bates, D.C. District Court
The case: NAACP et al v. United States
The dispute: DACA
What the judge wrote: Going even further than Alsup and another federal judge in New York and ordering the administration to begin accepting new DACA applications, “DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious because the department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful. Neither the meager legal reasoning nor the assessment of litigation risk provided by DHS to support its rescission decision is sufficient to sustain termination of the DACA program.” The judge even used the politically correct term “undocumented aliens,” explaining in a footnote that he was eschewing the legal term because of a “certain segment of the population that finds the phrase ‘illegal alien’ offensive.”
Status: The administration has not yet responded to the April 24 ruling, but last week seven states filed a lawsuit to end DACA, arguing that it never was legal in the first place.

3.) Senior U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber, Northern District of Illinois
The case: City of Chicago v. Sessions
The dispute: Whether the administration has the authority to target “sanctuary” jurisdictions by blocking certain federal grant money to cities and counties that do not cooperate with federal immigration officers
What the judge wrote: “The executive branch cannot impose the conditions without congressional authority … Efforts to impose them violate the separation of powers doctrine.”
Status: A three-judge panel of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked the full court to review the case.

4.) U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, District Court of Hawaii
The case: State of Hawaii v. Trump
The dispute: Whether the administration has the authority to temporarily prohibit people from certain terrorism-compromised countries from traveling to the United States
What the judge wrote: After citing statements from Trump on the campaign trail and his aides, “The Court will not crawl into a corner, pull the shutters closed, and pretend it has not seen what it has.”
Status: The Supreme Court allowed the ban to take effect, with certain restrictions. Last month, the justices heard oral arguments on the case, which will test the limits of executive power in determining which foreigners enter the United States and which do not.

Related: Dems Delay Trump’s Judicial Nominees by Running Out the Clock

5.) U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, D.C. District Court
The case: Jane Doe v. Trump
The dispute: Whether the administration can reverse a decision of the previous administration and ban transgender people from serving in the military.
What the judge wrote: “The court finds that a number of factors — including the sheer breadth of the exclusion ordered by the directives, the unusual circumstances surrounding the president’s announcement of them, the fact that the reasons given for them do not appear to be supported by any facts, and the recent rejection of those reasons by the military itself — strongly suggest that plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment claim is meritorious.”
Status: A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court rejected an appeal to put the judge’s injunction on hold and allow the transgender ban to take effect while the case proceeded. In March of this year, the Trump administration issued a revised executive order. Kollar-Kotelly kept the preliminary injunction in place, and the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint.

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

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