9th Circuit Upholds TRO Against Trump's Travel Ban On Due Process Grounds; Postpones Ruling On Religious Discrimination Issue

The U.S.9th Circuit Court of Appeals today, in a unanimous decision, refused to stay the Washington federal district court's temporary restraining order against enforcement of President Trump's Executive Order titled "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States." The opinion in State of Washington v. Trump, (9th Cir., Feb. 9, 2017), concludes that the government "has failed to establish that it will likely succeed on its due process argument in this appeal."  The court put off addressing plaintiffs' religious discrimination arguments, saying:

The States argue that the Executive Order violates the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses because it was intended to disfavor Muslims. In support of this argument, the States have offered evidence of numerous statements by the President about his intent to implement a “Muslim ban” as well as evidence they claim suggests that the Executive Order was intended to be that ban, including sections 5(b) and 5(e) of the Order. It is well established that evidence of purpose beyond the face of the challenged law may be considered in evaluating Establishment and Equal Protection Clause claims. See, e.g., Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye,Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 534 (1993) (“The Free Exercise Clause, like the Establishment Clause, extends beyond facial discrimination. . . . Official action that targets religious conduct for distinctive treatment cannot be shielded by mere compliance with the requirement of facial neutrality.”); Larson, 456 U.S. at 254-55 (holding that a facially neutral statute violated the Establishment Clause in light of legislative history demonstrating an intent to apply regulations only to minority religions); Village of Arlington Heights v. Metro. Housing Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 266-68 (1977) (explaining that circumstantial evidence of intent, including the historical background of the decision and statements by decision makers, may be considered in evaluating whether a governmental action was motivated by a discriminatory purpose).

The States’ claims raise serious allegations and present significant constitutional questions. In light of the sensitive interests involved, the pace of the current emergency proceedings, and our conclusion that the Government has not met its burden of showing likelihood of success on appeal on its arguments with respect to the due process claim, we reserve consideration of these claims until the merits of this appeal have been fully briefed.