Supreme Court

Supreme Court Rules Against Trump’s Efforts to Bypass Federal Courts

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

In immediate, practical terms, today's Supreme Court ruling could be seen as relatively meaningless, but it could have implications for another big case.

The Supreme Court released an unanimous opinion this morning ruling that opponents of the Obama-era Clean Water Act may argue their case in lower district courts before their cases are elevated to the appeals court level.

You may say this is meaningless because the Trump regime has already taken steps to roll back the Clean Water Act, rendering the legal challenges mute, but Trump regime lawyers argued that those cases should bypass district courts and be argued in front of appeals courts.

The Supreme Court disagreed:

Industry groups involved, led by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), argued that under the Clean Water Act, lower district courts should first hear the challenges, which can then be appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Trump administration, on the other hand, said the challenges were legally within the purview of appeals courts because the rule touched on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) permitting authority.

“Today’s unanimous Supreme Court decision provides much needed clarity and affirms our longstanding position that the Clean Water Act empowers the federal district courts, not the courts of appeals, to initially review legal challenges to the Waters of the U.S. Rule,” NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn said in a joint statement Monday.

I wouldn't say this is necessarily bad news for environmentalists because proponents of environmental regulation can file their cases in district courts just as easily as opponents can. And environmentalists may even be more successful at that level.

But that's not why I believe this unanimous opinion could be important.

Right now, the Trump regime is arguing that legal challenges of his order to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program should be appealed directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the appeals court level. The Trump regime is also arguing that district courts have no authority to review DACA.

Today's ruling seemingly implies that the government and third parties must follow the legal chain of command and go through the proper channels before reaching a higher level.

The Trump regime's plan to appeal the DACA ruling directly to the Supreme Court seemed far-fetched even before today's ruling. I could be mistaken, but my interpretation is that Trump regime lawyers argued against opponents of environmental regulation in this isolated case because they want to choose their own battleground at the district or appeals court level in other cases. This case was about legal precedent.

I don't think we should expect to see this very often, but it's pleasantly surprising that the Supreme Court's first opinion of the current term is a unanimous opinion against the Trump regime.

  • muselet

    That NAM is hailing this decision makes me more than a little nervous. I’m willing to bet it will use this ruling to slow-walk litigation against polluters.

    Still, this ruling gives the Trump White House an elementary-school–level education on how the federal government is supposed to work and represents a small victory for the rule of law, so it’s not entirely worrisome.


    • Badgerite

      In order to pack the court system with the horrible judges they would choose, they do have to wait for a vacancy. As of yet, they do not control the whole court system. This is a “small victory” in that it requires us to kick the bums out and soon to stop their packing the courts with right wing ideologues who would interpret the US Constitution right back to the 1920’s or worse. The Supreme Court has already accepted the It’s Money that Matters rule of law in terms of free speech in Citizens United. They have already accepted laws that are clearly intended to suppress the votes of minorities and the poor. They have yet to have a court that completely accepts the ridiculous gerrymandering that the GOP does but they are sure going to try over time. In the mean time, they probably feel they have a better shot at the Supreme Court than elsewhere these days and they don’t want the lower courts to build up a record or opinions that they would have to deal with using something that borders on legal reasoning on appeal. God, they are horrible. There is no regard or respect for even the idea of representative government and the rule of law, let alone the actual thing in practice.

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  • Dread_Pirate_Mathius

    it’s pleasantly surprising that the Supreme Court’s first opinion of the current term is a unanimous opinion against the Trump regime.

    Here’s to hoping that’s also true of their second ruling.. and their third.. and fourth..


    PS: What is going on with all the BS “Google” work-from-home spam on this blog?

    • JMAshby

      There’s not much I can do aside from ban the spam accounts every time they pop up. I ban at least one or two every day.