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Federal judge declines to immediately apply freeze of first Trump travel ban to new order

U.S. District Judge James L. Robart declined to declare immediately that his freeze of Trump’s first travel ban applied to the second. (U.S. Courts)

A federal judge in Washington state on Friday declined to declare immediately that his freeze of President Trump’s original travel ban applied to the new executive order, saying he could not do so until the state filed an amended complaint challenging the new directive head-on.

The decision from U.S. District Judge James L. Robart is a modest blow to the state of Washington, which had sued over the ban, because the quickest path to success would have been getting the judge to declare that Trump’s new order was affected by the freeze the judge imposed previously. But Robart declined to do that only for procedural reasons and did not address the merits of any arguments.

Washington state asks judge to declare that freeze of first Trump travel ban applies to new order

Neither side, Robart wrote, had filed a motion for him to consider, and the state’s previous complaints were directed at an executive order that is now revoked.

“Accordingly, the court also declines to resolve the apparent dispute between the parties concerning the applicability of the court’s injunctive order to the New Executive Order until such time as an amended complaint that addresses the New Executive Order is properly before the court,” Robart wrote.

The Washington attorney general’s office wrote on Twitter that its legal team was reviewing the order to “determine next steps.” The state had already indicated it would file an amended complaint, but it is unclear how soon the judge could take that up.

Trump’s new order, which is set to take effect on Thursday, temporarily blocks the issuance of visas to citizens of six majority-Muslim countries, and it suspends the U.S. refugee program. Like the first order — which suspended the refugee program, blocked citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States, and resulted in the provisional revocation of tens of thousands of visas — it has encountered significant legal resistance.

Hawaii was the first state to sue over the new order, and a hearing in that case is scheduled for Wednesday. A federal judge in Maryland will also hear arguments on that day in a separate lawsuit over the ban. And in Washington, a group of U.S. citizens and their relatives who have pending visa applications have asked Robart in a petition that is separate from the state’s lawsuit to immediately halt Trump’s directive. On Monday, the parties in that case will conduct a telephone hearing to set a schedule.