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.