A federal judge in Hawaii has reined in in an injunction he issued three months ago blocking key parts of President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban executive order.
U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson scaled back the injunction Monday, nullifying its impact on studies and policy reviews ordered under the directive Trump issued in March and billed as an anti-terrorism initiative.
In a ruling last week, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the bulk of Watson’s injunction, but said portions of it that blocked the Trump administration from studying vetting procedures were too broad and should be lifted.
The appeals court formally returned control of the case to Watson on Monday. Within an hour, he revised the injunction to exempt "internal review procedures that do not burden individuals outside of the executive branch of the federal government." (Watson declined to narrow the injunction before the case went up on appeal.)
Critics have said the administration’s sluggishness in carrying out the policy reviews demonstrated that the March order and its predecessor issued in January were not genuine efforts to stem the threat of terrorism. However, administration officials such as Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said they were treading carefully to avoid accusations that they were defying court orders.
The Supreme Court is expected to announce as soon as Thursday whether it will consider the legality of the Trump travel ban in the wake of two appeals court decisions upholding injunctions against the directive. The justices are also expected to rule on whether the Trump administration can implement the order while any Supreme Court challenge plays out or whether the measure will remain on hold.
Some analysts believe the narrowing of Watson’s order makes it less likely the justices will take immediate action to modify the injunctions while the litigation moves forward.