A second federal appeals court ruled against President Trump’s latest travel ban executive order, but the decision has been overtaken by action at the Supreme Court, reports Politico. The Richmond-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, 9-4, that the Trump directive limiting visitors from six majority-Muslim countries and two other nations is likely unconstitutional because it was driven by anti-Muslim animus. The judges’ split fell largely along party lines and divided the court in nearly the same fashion as the decision the same judges issued, 10-3, last May against an earlier version of Trump’s travel restrictions. “Plaintiffs offer undisputed evidence that the President of the United States has openly and often expressed his desire to ban those of Islamic faith from entering the United States. The Proclamation is thus not only a likely Establishment Clause violation, but also strikes at the basic notion that the government may not act based on religious animosity,” said Judge Roger Gregory.
Judge Paul Niemeyer decried the decision as an intrusion on executive branch decision-making related to national security. “This case involves an Article III court’s bold effort to second-guess U.S. foreign policy and, in particular, the President’s discretionary decisions on immigration, implicating matters of national security. Our constitutional structure forbids such intrusion by the judiciary,” wrote Niemeyer,. The only 4th Circuit judge to change his stance from last May was William Traxler Jr., a Bill Clinton appointee who often votes with the court’s conservatives. He said the additional work Trump administration officials did to justify the most recent version of the travel ban saved it from the fate of the earlier version. Last October, the Supreme Court voted, 7-2, to allow Trump’s latest order to take full effect despite a partial injunction against it. The justices are expected to hear arguments in April.