With legal sparring over President Obama’s order to stop new deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico on the way toward the Supreme Court, the Justice Department moved in lower courts Wednesday night to gain time for the appeal process.  The Department filed a formal notice that it is appealing a New Orleans judge’s ruling against the Obama moratorium, and asked that judge to put his ruling on hold in the meantime.  The stay motion is here and a memorandum of law supporting it is here.

U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman on Tuesday ordered an immediate end to the six-month moratorium, concluding that the Interior Department had not made a case that there is a serious risk of another oil spill in the Gulf from deepwater drilling.   Even before the Justice Department moved in Wednesday to seek a delay in the ruling, the challengers of the moratorium had asked Judge Feldman to issue a follow-up mandate to obey his ruling, contending that Interior officials were basically ignoring it.  The judge had not yet ruled on that plea.

The case appears destined ultimately for the Supreme Court, because both sides have been energetically pursuing their legal arguments in Judge Feldman’s Court even as efforts to stop the oil spill and clean up after it were continuing along the Gulf coast.  The case will go first to the Fifth Circuit Court in New Orleans.  It appears all but certain that whoever loses there will seek to take the moratorium issue on to the Supreme Court, at least to get emergency orders.

(NOTE: The blog will be monitoring developments in the lower court over the next few days, with posts to update as events unfold.)

Posted in Cases in the Pipeline