Editorial: Trump fundamentally misunderstands role of justice system


Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The Department of Justice asked the Supreme Court to bypass the lower courts and take the president’s military ban for transgender citizens upon itself.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

An administration that has made discrimination the name of the game is getting much pushier about its agenda, while simultaneously demonstrating a blatant lack of understanding for how the U.S. justice system works.

The Department of Justice asked the Supreme Court Friday to fast-track the case of the President Donald Trump’s military ban for transgender citizens, skipping over the lower courts that typically would have to weigh in before the case is taken up by the highest court. This is an obvious overstep by the executive branch — and it’s not the first time the Trump administration has crossed this line.

The White House’s ban reverses a policy put in place by the Obama administration that allows transgender men and women to serve in the military and have sex-reassignment surgery covered under their federal health care. The prohibition of transgender men and women from serving in the military has been rejected by both gay rights groups and lower courts, which have issued injunctions to leave the Obama policy intact.

“There is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effect on the military at all,” said Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in a case ruling last year. “In fact, there is considerable evidence that it is the discharge and banning of such individuals that would have such effects.”

The Supreme Court typically waits until regional appeals courts have ruled on a case before it takes it up, but Solicitor General Noel Francisco has asked the Supreme Court to accept three separate cases currently in the lower courts to be heard this term.

“[Defense] Secretary [James] Mattis and a panel of senior military leaders and other experts determined that the prior policy … posed too great a risk to military effectiveness and lethality,” Francisco said.

But Francisco is wrong. There is no reason to believe that Obama’s policy has incapacitated the military in any way and there is no pressing reason to push a Supreme Court decision.

“There is no urgency here and no reason for the court to weigh in at this juncture,” said Jennifer Levi, an expert on transgender legal issues. “The injunctions preserve the status quo of the open-service policy that was thoroughly vetted by the military itself and has been in place now for more than two years. This is simply one more attempt by a reckless Trump administration to push through a discriminatory policy.”

The administration has a history of asking the Supreme Court to alter the normal appeals process. The White House made the same request in January regarding cases dealing with Trump’s proposal to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a federal program that protects the children of illegal immigrants from deportation. The Supreme Court denied the request, but the Trump administration asked again weeks ago.

This isn’t even the first time in the past week that Trump has shown a complete misunderstanding of the judicial system. Chief Justice John Roberts sparred publicly with Trump on Wednesday about the independence of the judicial branch when the president called a lower-court judge who decided against him an “Obama judge.” Roberts released a critical statement of the president for his remark and Trump responded via Twitter.

Trump has proven time and time again that he fundamentally misunderstands the separate roles of the judiciary and the executive branch. It’s time he learned them and stopped trying to mold the system to fit his discriminatory agenda.