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U.S. presses for immigration ruling this Term

Pressing the Supreme Court to set a schedule for a ruling in the current Term on the new immigration policy, the Obama administration on Tuesday volunteered to give up some of its filing options and opposed a month-long delay for the reply of the twenty-six states challenging the policy.  Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., outlined the government’s views in a two-page letter.

The states have asked for an extra thirty days, beyond the normal thirty, to answer the government’s appeal defending the policy.  Verilli, however, said the government would only consent to an eight-day extension.  That would mean the states’ brief would be due on December 29.  The consent to that added time would be contingent on the states’ brief actually reaching the Court that day.  The government, Verrilli said, is willing to forfeit its right to file a reply to the states’ opposition.

If the Court were to give the states the full thirty days they sought, making it due on January 20, the Solicitor General said, the government would still seek to have the case decided this Term, by filing a motion to expedite the process, with a hearing to be held in May.  Ordinarily, the Court finishes its hearings each Term in April, but it has sometimes heard oral arguments later in the Term if the case were deemed sufficiently important.

The Court does not like to hold arguments in May.  After finishing arguments in April, the Justices use the months of May and June to draft and release their final opinions.

Under the normal schedule, a January 20 filing by the states would almost certainly put the case over to the next Term, starting in October.  Normally, the Court must grant review by the end of January for a case to be briefed, argued, and decided by the end of the Term, in late June or early July.

The government lawyer argued that the states do not need sixty days to answer, and he contended that the Court should do what is necessary to move the case along without having to expedite it.  If the states’ opposition brief were filed on December 29, he said, and the government were to forfeit its chance to file a reply, the case could be considered by the Justices at their private Conference on January 15.

That, he said, would enable the case to be decided this Term “in the ordinary course if the Court grants review.”

As he had done when he filed the government’s appeal last Friday, Verrilli stressed his views on how important the case is to the millions of undocumented immigrants who could qualify for delayed deportation, for the government’s authority to manage the immigration system, and for the states that joined in supporting the government policy in the lower courts.   The policy, although announced a year ago, has never gone into full effect because it has been blocked by a federal trial judge in Texas and by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The Solicitor General, answering the challenging states’ complaint that the government had not moved the case along with sufficient dispatch up to now, contended that the government “has endeavored to ensure prompt resolution of this case and moved expeditiously at every stage.”

In opposing the states’ thirty-day extension plea, Verrilli said that the states simply did not need that much time and that, if lawyers for the lead state in opposition, Texas, could not meet the schedule he proposed, lawyers from some of the other twenty-five states protesting the policy could do so.

The Court is not expected to take any action on the dispute over filing time until at least tomorrow, Wednesday.


Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, U.S. presses for immigration ruling this Term, SCOTUSblog (Nov. 24, 2015, 6:21 PM),