Supreme Court Hands President Trump a Partial Victory

The Supreme Court has given President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban a split decision. In an unsigned opinion, the court is allowing the ban but blocking other parts of the order.

The justices ruled that foreigners from the six mostly Muslim countries of Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen with credible ties to or relationships in the U.S. will be allowed into the country. That’s a pretty low bar for most to surmount.

But Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Jr. and Neil Gorsuch dissented from that part of the court’s opinion because it could cause confusion about defining bona fide connections.

“Today’s compromise will burden executive official with the task of deciding … whether individuals from the six affected nations who wish to enter the United States have a sufficient connection to a person or entity in this country,” wrote Thomas.

In the fall, the court will hear the case Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project which weighs the issues of the president’s immigration powers, religious discrimination and national security.

In another blockbuster decision involving the separation of church and state, the court decided Missouri must allow religious institutions in a state program that reimburses the costs of rubberizing playground surfaces. Justices ruled 7-2 in the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer.

The question of what other taxpayer money can be used by religious institutions was covered in footnote 3 on page 14 of the decision: “This case involves express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing. We do not address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination.”

The court decided in May the gerrymandering case of Cooper v. Harris. In a 5-3 split, justices ruled that two North Carolina Congressional districts were racially manipulated. Surprisingly, Thomas joined the four liberal justices in the opinion. Gill v. Whitford will be heard during the next term and it involves political gerrymandering in Wisconsin.

Finally, the justices ruled that gay couples are entitled to equal treatment on the birth certificates of their children. An Arkansas law automatically put husbands on birth certificates even if they’re not the biological father of the child. However, the law didn’t give a same-sex husband or wife the same benefit. The justices split 6-3 in the case of Pavan v. Smith. Gorsuch, Thomas and Alito dissented.

Joining us with their analysis are David Franklin, who clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg from 1999 to 2000. He teaches constitutional law at the DePaul University College of Law and is serving as the Illinois solicitor general. Carolyn Shapiro who clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer in 1996 and 1997. She is an associate professor of law at IIT's Chicago-Kent College of Law where she is also the co-director of the Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States. Andy DeVooght, who clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 2002 and 2003. He is a partner at the law firm Loeb & Loeb. And Travis Lenkner, who served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2008 and 2009. He is now a managing director at Burford Capital.


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