Judge James L. Robart of the Western District of Washington has just ruled in favor of the Washington State Attorney General's motion for a temporary restraining order on key sections of POTUS's Muslim ban.
The temporary restraining order immediately halts federal officers from enforcing sections of the ban that target refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. It also stops federal officers from enforcing the part of the ban that grants exemptions to refugees on the basis of their religion.
"The fundamental work of this court is the recognition that it is only one of three equal branches of our government," Robart said from the bench. "The role assigned to the court is not to create policy, and it is not to judge the wisdom of the policy created by the other two branches."
Robart continued: "The work of the judiciary is ensuring that the action taken by those two branches comport with our laws, and most importantly, our Constitution."
In court, the main prongs of the state's argument were that the executive order enforces religious discrimination, that it violates the due process of refugees, and that it causes irreparable harm to the state (and its institutions and people). Additionally, the state argued that the executive order deserves strict scrutiny—the highest form of judicial review—and that the executive order fails under that standard.
Judge Robart at first seemed hesitant to conclude that the president's decision was based on religious discrimination; he pointed out that only one section of the executive order explicitly made mention of religion. But an exchange with the Department of Justice attorney arguing on behalf of POTUS laid bare some of the holes in the president's defense arguments.
When Robart asked the DOJ's Michelle Bennett how many foreign nationals of the seven countries targeted by the ban had been arrested on domestic terrorism charges since 9/11, Bennett told the court she didn't know. Robart informed her that the answer was none.
"You're here arguing on behalf of someone who says we have to protect the US from these individuals coming from these countries, and there's no support for that," Robart said.
Bennett replied that it was the president's duty to make that call, and that "the court doesn't get to look behind those determinations."
Robart said that he did have to find if the executive order was rationally based. "And rationally based to me implies that to some extent I have to find it grounded in facts as opposed to fiction."
Later, Washington State Solicitor General Noah Purcell said that he found part of the DOJ's argument "frightening."
"Their argument was essentially that if the president says, 'I'm doing this in the national security interest,' then the court cannot review whether that's the real reason, or whether there's really any rational reason for the president's action," Purcell said. "And our view is that's not the law, that's a scary view of the law, and luckily the judge rejected that idea."
Eventually, Judge Robart found that the state demonstrated it had standing to bring the case, that the case was likely to succeed on its merits, and that a temporary restraining order was in the public interest. The temporary restraining order, which is far more substantive and wide-ranging than the stay issued by a federal judge in New York on January 28, will remain in place until a preliminary injunction hearing, which will be in the next two weeks to a month.
"We are a nation of laws," Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said at a press conference after the hearing. "Not even the president can violate our Constitution, and Judge Robart made the right decision declaring this unconstitutional, and we look forward to further proceedings."
Update: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the Trump administration's motion to block Judge Robart's order and immediately reinstate the travel ban.