Washington District Court orders nationwide temporary restraint on travel ban

United States District Court, Western District of Washington at Seattle: In sight of the continuous protests against travel ban on certain Muslim countries in USA, the State of Washington filed a complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against Federal Defendants- Donald J. Trump, in his official capacity as President of the U.S.A, the United States Department of Homeland Security – John F. Kelly, Secretary of DHS, Tom Shannon, as Acting Secretary of State, and the United States of America.

Issue before the Court:-

The Executive order was issued on 27.01.2017 and the State sought declaratory relief invalidating portions of the order. The State prayed for the grant of TEMPORARY RELIEF ORDER (TRO) against Federal Defendants. Presently, the purpose of a TRO was to preserve the status quo before the court would hold a hearing on a motion for preliminary injunction. The Court observed that the standard for issuing a TRO is the same as the standard for issuing a preliminary injunction and that a TRO is “an extraordinary remedy that may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such relief” while citing Winter v. Natural Resources Defendant Council, Inc., 2005 SCC OnLine US SC 62 : 545 US 596 (2005) in which the test for granting a preliminary injunctive relief was laid down by U.S. Supreme Court, popularly known as Winter Test.

What is Winter Test?

This test lays down the proper legal standard for granting preliminary injunctive relief. As per the test, a party who seeks it, requires to demonstrate the following:-

(1) ‘that he is likely to succeed on the merits,

(2) that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief,

(3) that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and

(4) that an injunction is in the public interest.’

Satisfaction of test in this case:-

The court found that the States could satisfy the abovementioned standards and the winter test. The court observed that the petitioners had shown that they were likely to succeed on the merits of the claims that would entitle them to relief; and they were likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; the balance of the equities also favoured the States; and a TRO was definitely in the public interest. The irreparable harm is in the sense that the Executive Order adversely affects the States’ residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations, and freedom to travel.

These harms would extend to States by virtue of their roles as parens patriae of the residents living within their borders, the Court observed. Parens patriae, in law refers to the to the public policy power of the state to involve oneself with someone who has an abusive or negligent parent, legal guardian or informal caretaker, and can act as the parent of any child or individual who is in need of protection. Also, in US litigation, State can resort to this policy to create its stand to sue on behalf of its people and had successfully proved in this case that its people were being injured due to the implementation of the impugned executive order.

Not even this, but the State itself would be harmed by implementation of the executive order as it inflicts upon the operations of the public Universities in States and other institutions as well as injury to the States’ operations, tax bases, public funds, etc. such harms are significant capable of causing irreparable injury to States, the Court considered carefully.

Conclusion:

The Court concluded that a TRO against Federal Defendants was necessary until such time as the court could hear and decide the States’ request for a preliminary injunction. It enumerated a few provisions of the Order against which the TRO was applicable and held that the temporary restraint on the ban on travel by certain countries would be effective nationwide until it hears the parties finally for preliminary injunction. [State of Washington and Minnesota v. President, U.S., Case No. C17-0141JLR,  order dated 03.02.2017 ]

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