In what is quickly and disgustingly becoming a new norm, yet another low-level federal judge has issued a national injunction against one of Trump’s policies. In this case I’m referring to U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar’s action barring Trump’s plan to require those seeking asylum to do so at a regular port of entry.
Per the Constitution, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is a branch of the government that is CO-EQUAL with the President, not superior. Certainly, no inferior court, such as one at the District level, has status or authority equal to SCOTUS. Therefore I see no constitutional reason why the President, in this case Trump, is bound by any holding of any Court other than SCOTUS.
Secondly, this phenomenon of District courts issuing rulings with national effect is completely new. The only court with national jurisdiction is SCOTUS. Lower courts have jurisdiction within defined geographical boundaries, and their rulings only apply WITHIN those jurisdictional boundaries. Each District covers certain defined areas and each Circuit is comprised of several Districts. The Circuit assures uniformity of the law within its own boundaries by ruling on the conformity and propriety of rulings of the Districts within its jurisdiction.
From there one of SCOTUS’s main functions is to settle conflicts between the rulings of the various Circuits in order to assure uniformity of the application of law throughout the nation.
With that in mind, barring a SCOTUS ruling, I maintain that Trump – or any President – can tell any lower court judge to stick it where the sun never shines.
In fact, I have to stress that even SCOTUS is only co-equal to the President, not superior. A President doesn’t even have to obey a SCOTUS ruling. As a matter of further fact, we have an example of one President who refused to do so.
In the case of Worcester v. Georgia SCOTUS handed down a ruling that Andrew Jackson chose to completely ignore. Though this resulted in the Trail of Tears tragedy, it did illustrate the principle that SCOTUS doesn’t have authority superior to the President.
The bottom line is that Trump, or any President, can tell a court to pound sand. Of course, there could be political consequences if that court is SCOTUS. It could end up being a “constitutional crisis”. It would certainly be a constitutional conflict. But it may be one worth having, as the courts seem to have lost all sense of their rightful place in the scheme of things.
©Brian Baker 2018
(Also published on 27 November 2018 in my local newspaper, The Signal)