The full bench of a federal appeals court in Virginia will consider the legality of President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban executive order at an argument session next month, the court announced Monday.
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said it will conduct an en banc hearing May 8 in Richmond on the federal government’s appeal of a Maryland-based judge’s ruling blocking Trump’s ban on issuance of visas to citizens of six majority-Muslim countries.
Normally, appeals go to a three-judge panel for review. However, the en banc session will involve 15 judges hearing the case. The 4th Circuit’s active bench has nine Democratic appointees, five Republican appointees and one judge who was nominated to the court by both a Democratic president and a Republican one.
The 4th Circuit’s order Monday did not disclose the reasons for the so-called “initial en banc” hearing. The refugee and academic groups who brought the lawsuit involved supported the move. The Justice Department said it supported the immediate en banc session if it would not delay the case.
Another federal appeals court is considering a parallel appeal of a Hawaii-based judge’s ruling blocking the visa ban, as well as other provisions in Trump’s revised order, including a suspension in admission of refugees from across the globe. That injunction was issued on a suit brought by the State of Hawaii and a local Muslim religious leader.
The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has expedited that appeal by the Trump administration, scheduling a three-judge panel to hear the issues in that case on May 15. No en banc review has been announced on that appeal, but it could be granted later.
Whatever decisions the two appeals courts make could be appealed further to the Supreme Court. It’s also possible that if one or both injunctions are not lifted by the lower courts, the Trump administration will ask the justices to issue an emergency order allowing the Trump order to go into effect while the case is litigated at the high court.
Trump issued his first travel ban executive order on Jan. 27, just seven days after he was sworn in. The directive triggered protests at various airports across the country, the detention of hundreds of travelers and confusion over the status of green card holders. The directive also met with immediate resistance from the courts, with about half a dozen judges issuing orders reining in or blocking different aspects of the first order.
On March 6, Trump issued a new directive, revoking the old one and striking Iraq from the list of countries affected by the visa ban. The new order explicitly excluded existing visa and green card holders and removed some language that appeared to prioritize Christian refugees.
The following week, the judges in Honolulu and Greenbelt, Maryland, blocked the key aspects of Trump’s revised order.