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How A New Supreme Court Justice May Affect Cases Filed By Washington’s Attorney General

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
Attorney General Bob Ferguson, left, speaks at a press conference announcing a lawsuit against the Trump administration over a policy of separating immigrant families illegally entering the United States.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has been particularly aggressive in filing lawsuits against the Trump administration, but the prospect of a new justice on the U.S. Supreme Court has implications for what happens to those cases, according to one local law professor.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has been a swing vote on the court for decades and wrote key decisions on gay rights, said last week that he plans to retire. Republicans have long hoped to replace him with someone more consistently conservative.

Ferguson has had some legal successes challenging President Donald Trump’s policies. He won a nationwide temporary restraining order against Trump’s first ban on travel from some predominantly Muslim countries. The president went back to the drawing board instead of appealing that version to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the end, it was the third version of the president’s travel ban that was considered and ultimately upheld by the high court. That was a case brought by the state of Hawaii.

Charlotte Garden, associate professor at Seattle University School of Law, said Justice Anthony Kennedy will likely be replaced with someone more to the right and that will shape the president’s legal strategy.

“If that’s the case, then I’m not sure that we’ll be as likely to see the Trump administration backing down in response to adverse lower court rulings as we were this past year,” she said.

Ferguson recently sued the Trump administration over the forced separation of immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. He’s also challenged restrictions on access to contraception and the president’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

All told, Ferguson’s office has filed or joined 28 lawsuits against the Trump administration.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.