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Court battles resume over Trump travel order: Is it still about a 'Muslim ban'?

The Supreme Court opened its term Monday. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
The Supreme Court opened its term Monday. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Looking ahead to new rounds of litigation over President Trump’s latest travel ban, his lawyers urged the Supreme Court on Thursday to wipe away appeals court rulings that struck down earlier versions this spring.

Federal appeals court judges on the West Coast and in Virginia cited Trump’s tweets and his campaign pledge to enact a “Muslim ban” in rulings that blocked the earlier versions of the travel order from taking effect.

Those opinions “remain legally consequential,” Justice Department lawyers said in a letter to the justices, but should not stand because they could shape future court battles.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and the state of Hawaii gave the opposite advice. They said a “live dispute” still remained over the constitutionality of Trump’s travel ban orders, and the lower court opinions remained relevant.

The latest travel ban “is an outgrowth of the president’s promised Muslim ban and imposes a set of restrictions designed to fulfill that promise,” said Washington attorney Neal K. Katyal, who represents Hawaii.

The skirmishing follows the Supreme Court’s decision to postpone arguments on Trump’s immigration power, which had been set for Oct. 10.  The justices asked the lawyers for advice on what should happen next.

On Thursday, Trump’s lawyers said the current cases should be dismissed as moot. The ACLU and Hawaii insisted they were not moot because the essential dispute is still alive.

But a new round of litigation is already underway.  A federal judge in Maryland has scheduled a hearing on the new travel order for Oct. 17.

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