Trump’s demands for Sotomayor, Ginsburg recusals sparked by Chicago case

A blistering dissent by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor triggering Trump’s ire came in a case filed by Cook County and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

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President Donald Trump’s attacks from India on U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg involve an immigration-related case being fought in Chicago.

Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The federal immigration-related case in the national spotlight these past few days – devolving on Tuesday to President Donald Trump’s attacks from India on Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — is being fought in Chicago.

Trump, intruding on another co-equal branch of government, said he wants the pair of liberal justices to recuse themselves from “Trump related matters.” The blistering dissent by Sotomayor sparking Trump’s ire came in a case filed last September by the government of Cook County and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

In yet another immigration crackdown, the Trump White House imposed “public charge” regulations to make it harder for noncitizens to achieve legal status if, in their time in the U.S., they used food stamps, some forms of Medicaid, housing assistance or other non-cash benefits.

Cook County and ICIRR wanted to block the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule from going into effect in Illinois last Oct. 15. They won a preliminary injunction.

The Trump Justice Department tried and failed three times in Chicago district and appellate courts to get a stay of that preliminary injunction. The Justice Department finally hit the jackpot when, in a Friday 5-4 decision, they won a stay from the Supreme Court, getting their case to the head of the line by pleading some unspecified emergency.

The majority five justices are conservatives, nominated by Republican presidents. The four liberals were tapped by Democratic presidents. Often these differences are blurred on the court — but not when it comes to the alarm Sotomayor is sounding over the growing number of emergency claims.

The next chapter in this case — coming as Trump feuds with the high court’s liberal judges — unfolds Wednesday morning at the Dirksen Federal Building, in a hearing before the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

This case, percolating through district and appellate courts in Chicago, is the one where Sotomayor, in her dissent, noted two troubling trends:

*That the federal government, “claiming one emergency after another,” is making an excessive number of claims of an emergency in seeking expedited Supreme Court intervention. “With each successive application, of course, its cries of urgency ring hollow.”

*Sotomayor then faulted the behavior of her colleagues who keep allowing the emergency claims to advance. Expediting the Trump administration cases — and not letting the appellate process to first play out when it comes to requests for stays of lower court rulings against the Trump White House — rigs the system, she wrote.

All those emergencies “upend the normal appellate process, putting a thumb on the scale in favor of the party that won a stay,” she wrote.

Sotomayor also noted last Friday that there really wasn’t that much of an emergency since “the Seventh Circuit is set to consider the Illinois-specific injunction next week as well, with a decision to follow shortly thereafter.”

On Wednesday morning, attorney David Morrison of Goldberg Kohn Ltd. will be arguing on behalf of the Cook County state’s attorney and Cook County government; another lawyer, Tacy Flint from Sidley Austin LLP, will be representing ICIRR.

The legal teams fighting the Trump White House also include lawyers from the Legal Council for Health Justice at 17 N. State St. and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, 67 E. Madison St.

Meghan Carter, an attorney at the Council for Health Justice told me Tuesday, “We hope that once we have the opportunity for a briefing on the actual merits of our case, we’ll be able to demonstrate to the (appellate) panel that the public charge rule is against the law and should not be permitted,” Carter said.


In India, Trump said in Monday tweets that Sotomayor and Ginsburg should recuse themselves “on all Trump, or Trump related, matters! While “elections have consequences,” I only ask for fairness, especially when it comes to decisions made by the United States Supreme Court!”

Trump dragged Ginsburg into this because of long-standing grievances he has against her.

At a Tuesday New Delhi news conference, Trump was asked by John Roberts of Fox News about the basis he used for forming his opinions. Trump replied, “Well, it’s very obvious. I mean, I always thought that — frankly, that Justice Ginsburg should do it because she went wild during the campaign when I was running. I don’t know who she was for. Perhaps she was for Hillary Clinton, if you can believe it.”

Trump said about Sotomayor, “The way I look at it: She’s trying to shame people with perhaps a different view into voting her way. And that’s so inappropriate.”

What is a shame is that Trump is trying to erode the credibility of the Supreme Court.

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