The Trump administration is asking the Supreme Court for a quick ruling on the president’s order to ban transgender people from military service. This is the fourth time in recent months that the administration has sought an expedited ruling from the high court on controversial issues that lower courts have only begun to hear.
Earlier this month, the administration asked the high court to fast-track cases on the president’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields young immigrants from deportation. Administration officials also recently asked the high court to intervene to stop a trial in a climate change lawsuit and in a lawsuit over the administration’s decision to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census.
Three of the issues have been before the 9th Circuit Court, which is generally perceived in the press and the legal community as a “liberal court.”
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a frequent target of criticism by President Donald Trump, is involved in three of the cases. Trump’s recent salvo against the “Obama judge” who ruled against his asylum policy — not one of the issues currently before the Supreme Court — prompted Chief Justice John Roberts to fire back at the president for the first time for feeding perceptions of a biased judiciary.
Joshua Matz, publisher of the liberal Take Care blog, said the timing of the administration’s effort to get the Supreme Court involved in the issues at an early stage could hardly be worse for Roberts and other justices who have sought to dispel perceptions that the court is merely a political institution, especially since the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. At an especially sensitive moment for the Supreme Court, the Trump administration is “forcing it into a minefield that many justices would almost surely prefer to avoid,” Matz said.
One can understand the president’s frustration with the 9th Circuit, but the Supreme Court is the court of last resort. Justices would much prefer a body of opinion delivered by lower courts upon which they can base a reasonable decision grounded in law and precedent.
But anyone who doesn’t think justices don’t read the newspapers or look at polls is sadly mistaken. The court has always been aware of the political implications of their decisions and to pretend otherwise is silly. This makes the court “political” in the sense that the ideological leanings of the justices play into how they view the issues and justify their votes — especially on controversial matters.
Is the issue of transgenders serving in the military worthy of immediate attention by the Supreme Court? While there are certainly national security implications to the issue, there is no immediate danger to the country if a few transgender soldiers remain on active duty. So the court is not likely to accept the case until it works its way through the appeals courts.