President Donald Trump's revised travel ban has suffered another federal court setback after a judge in Maryland rejected a revised measure that bans travel targeting six predominantly Muslim countries.
Judge Theodore Chuang ruled Thursday in Greenbelt, Maryland, in a case brought near the nation's capital by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups representing immigrants, refugees and their families. The groups argued that the underlying rationale of the ban was to discriminate against Muslims, making it unconstitutional.
Chuang granted a preliminary injunction on a nationwide basis. He declined to issue an injunction blocking the entire executive order, saying that the plaintiffs didn't sufficiently develop their argument that the temporary ban on refugees offends the establishment clause and didn't provide sufficient basis to establish the invalidity of the rest of the order.
He called Trump's own statements about intentions to impose a Muslim ban "highly relevant." Trump's second executive order does include changes from the first order, Chuang noted, such as the removal of a preference for religious minorities in the refugee process.
"Despite these changes, the history of public statements continues to provide a convincing case that the purpose of the Second Executive Order remains the realization of the long-envisioned Muslim ban," he said.
Details of the implementation of the orders also indicate that national security isn't the primary purpose of the ban, Chuang said.
"The fact that the White House took the highly irregular step of first introducing the travel ban without receiving the input and judgment of the relevant national security agencies strongly suggests that the religious purpose was primary and the national security purpose, even if legitimate, is a secondary, post hoc rationale," he said.
North Carolina's Supreme Court on Monday again blocked a state law approved by Republicans that strips the new Democratic governor of powers to oversee elections.
A lower appeals court briefly let the law to take effect last week, allowing a revamped state elections board to meet for the first time Friday. It's one of the changes passed in late December that shift power over running elections away from Gov. Roy Cooper.
"We are pleased the Supreme Court has put the injunction back in place until the judges can hear and decide the full case" early next month, Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley wrote in an email.
The law ends the practice of allowing the governor's political party to hold majorities on all state and county elections boards. Instead of Democrats holding sway over running elections and resolving voting disputes, elections board positions would be evenly divided between major-party partisans.
Republicans would control elections during even-numbered years, when big races for president, legislature or other major statewide offices are held. The measure also merges the state ethics and elections boards into one.
Lawyers representing state House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, did not respond to emails seeking comment after the Supreme Court's decision.
Cooper, Moore and Berger are also fighting in court over another new law aiming to restrict the Democrat's ability to alter the state's recent conservative direction.
A panel of three state trial court judges is considering whether to continue blocking a law requiring Senate confirmation of Cooper's Cabinet secretaries.
The law requiring Senate consent to Cooper's top appointees came during a surprise special session barely a week after Republican incumbent Pat McCrory conceded to Cooper in their close gubernatorial race.
Poland's government says it is taking Russia to the United Nations' principal court over the continuing probe into the 2010 death of Poland's president in a plane crash in Russia and Moscow's refusal to turn over the wreckage.
The twin brother of late President Lech Kaczynski leads Poland's ruling party. Jaroslaw Kaczynski blames the crash on Moscow. He has made finding those responsible and recovering the plane's pieces for Poland's own investigation part of his political agenda.
Russian prosecutors say they still need the wreckage for their ongoing probe. Aviation experts said the crash was an accident. Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said Wednesday that Poland is drafting up a complaint to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Netherlands.
The court rules on disputes between nations and gives advisory opinions on legal questions.
Wealthy powerbrokers. Special interest groups. Millions of dollars pouring in to elect conservatives or liberals.
It sounds like a typical election-year contest for Congress or a state legislature, but it's actually a high-stakes battle for institutions that were once considered above politics: state supreme courts. Political groups view control of the high courts as essential to either defending or thwarting state laws. And they are more and more willing to spend big to gain the advantage.
So far in the current election cycle, a record $14 million in independent money has been spent on television advertisements for state supreme court seats, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. That represents about half of all the money spent on the races, including the amount spent by the candidates themselves.
The final tally, which will not be known until after Election Day, is sure to be much higher and will probably shatter the previous outside spending record of $13.5 million, set in the 2011-12 election cycle.
"State supreme court elections have become increasingly high-cost and politicized," said Alicia Bannon, senior counsel at the Brennan Center. "Special interests have been putting a lot of money into those races, trying to shape who sits on the courts and ultimately the decisions the courts are making."
Not including uncontested races, some 52 seats in 27 states are in play Nov. 8, according to the Brennan Center's tally.
The U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 decision in the Citizens United case helped accelerate outside spending on judicial campaigns, the type of spending that is not supposed to be done in coordination with the candidates themselves.
Republicans "can't just simply stonewall" nominees to the Supreme Court even if the president making the choice is Democrat Hillary Clinton, says the GOP chairman of the Judiciary Committee in a reaffirmation of the Senate's advise-and-consent role on judicial picks.
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley's comments on Tuesday was a response to fellow Republican Sen. John McCain, who a day earlier vowed that Republicans would unite against any nominee Clinton puts forward if she becomes president. That unprecedented pledge raised the possibility that the Supreme Court would have to operate for four years of a Clinton term with one or more vacancies, rather than nine justices.
The court has had one vacancy for months since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February. Republicans have refused to consider President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland, arguing that the next president should fill the opening.
"I think we have a responsibility to very definitely vet — if you want to use the word vet — whoever nominee that person puts forward," Grassley told radio reporters in Iowa. "We have the same responsibility for (Donald) Trump. We know more the type of people Trump would nominate because he's listed 20. They fall into the category of strict constructionists. As I heard about Hillary on the last debate, the type of people she's going to appoint, I would say they're judicial activists."
He added that the new president should make the choice and "if that new president happens to be Hillary. We can't just simply stonewall."
McCain's comments came in an interview with Philadelphia talk radio host Dom Giordano to promote the candidacy of Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., one of the more vulnerable GOP incumbents as Republicans scramble to hold onto their Senate majority.
Drawing Austria's supreme court further into a political fray, a powerful right-wing party announced legal action Wednesday against a court justice over his refusal to stop making a claim the party thinks is hurting its image.
The Freedom Party wants Constitutional Court Judge Johannes Schnizer to stop saying it prepared a legal challenge to May's presidential election long before announcing it was formally protesting the election's outcome.
If true, the party's timing would suggest it was less worried about the validity of the vote and more interested in finding a way to give its candidate a second chance, should he lose.
With the Constitutional Court intended to be above politics, the dispute between Schnizer and the Freedom Party appears unprecedented.
The justice originally raised questions about the timing of the party's lawsuit during a state television interview last week in which he also discussed the court's decision to order a rerun of the election. Freedom Party candidate Norbet Hofer narrowly lost the May contest to left-leaning rival Alexander Van der Bellen.
Court justices do not usually speak publicly about rulings, a convention Schnizer breached by talking about why the court ruled in favor of Freedom Party claims of widespread election irregularities.
The judge went further. Noting that the party submitted complex legal objections to the vote within the legally prescribed deadline of a week, he said, "You cannot do something like this within the time frame of a week, but maybe I'm mistaken."
On Monday, Schnizer expressed his regrets to Chief Justice Gerhard Holzinger for going public with his views. In rejecting the party's demand Wednesday, Schnizer's attorney, Michael Pilz, said his client was only expressing his personal opinion.
Differences aside, Donald Trump and Senate Republicans are strongly united on one issue — ideological balance on the Supreme Court.
While Democrats are pushing the GOP-led Senate to confirm Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland by the end of President Barack Obama's term, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been resolute in blocking him, saying the next president should fill the high court vacancy. Republicans maintain it's a winning political strategy in a year when some GOP rank and file are struggling with reasons to vote for their nominee.
"I would argue that it's one of the few ties that binds right now in the Republican Party," said Josh Holmes, McConnell's former chief of staff. "It's one of the things that's kept a Republican coalition together that seems to be fraying with Donald Trump."
Trump himself has made the same argument.
"If you really like Donald Trump, that's great, but if you don't, you have to vote for me anyway," Trump told supporters at a rally last month. "You know why? Supreme Court judges, Supreme Court judges. Have no choice ... sorry, sorry, sorry."
The billionaire businessman has made the future ideological balance of the high court a key issue in the campaign, promising to nominate a conservative in the mold of former Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February. He often mentions the issue in campaign speeches, as does his vice presidential nominee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Pence often spends several minutes of his standard campaign speech reminding crowds of the importance of the court and conservative values. To loud cheers, he warns that a court in Hillary Clinton's hands could push through amnesty for immigrants living in the country illegally and strip individuals' rights to own guns, a reversal of the Second Amendment that Clinton has rejected.