DOJ appeals judge’s ruling that temporarily blocks President Donald Trump’s order on refugees
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Saturday appealed a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that stopped enforcement of the executive order banning travel to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries and suspending refugee entry to the US.
The order by Judge James Robart, a George W. Bush appointee who presides in Washington state, is a significant setback for Trump’s controversial travel ban and creates another round of chaos nationwide over the policy’s legality.
“The court concludes that the circumstances brought before it today are such that it must intervene to fulfill its constitutional role in our tripartite government,” Robart wrote in the order.
1) Who is Judge Robart?
James L. Robart has been a federal judge in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington state since 2004, the year after Bush nominated him to the federal bench. He assumed senior status in 2016.
Born in 1947 in Seattle, Robart graduated in 1969 from Whitman College and in 1973 from Georgetown Law School, where he was administrative editor of the Georgetown Law Journal, according to his official biography on the US District Court’s website. He was in private practice in Seattle with the firm Lane Powell Moss & Miller from 1973 to 2004, serving as managing partner in 2003 and 2004.
2) Robart has done extensive community service
During his confirmation hearing, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington praised Robart for his “generous sense of community service through his work with at-risk and special needs youth.”
Robart is the former president and trustee of the Seattle Children’s Home, which handles mental health needs for children and their families throughout the city and state, according to its website. He’s also worked extensively with the Children’s Home Society of Washington, which provides services to families to improve children’s lives.
3) This is not the first time he’s been in the news
Robart sparked controversy last year for a remark he made from the bench involving a case alleging use of excessive force by police.
According to a video posted on the federal court’s website, Robart said “black lives matter” during a court hearing in August 2016. Citing FBI statistics, he said, “Police shootings resulting in deaths involved 41% black people, despite being only 20% of the population living in those cities.”
“Forty-one percent of the casualties, 20% people of the population — black lives matter,” Robart said.
The remark came during testimony in 2012 lawsuit filed by the Obama administration against the Seattle Police Department. The Department of Justice wanted the police force to change certain policies after an investigation found “reasonable cause to believe that SPD had engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force.” The DOJ report also identified “serious concerns about certain practices that could have a disparate impact on minority communities.”
4) He’s done pro bono work with Southeast Asian refugees
During his confirmation hearing, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah noted that Robart had done pro bono legal work and had represented refugees during his career.
“He has been active in the representation of the disadvantaged through his work with Evergreen Legal Services and the independent representation of Southeast Asian refugees,” Hatch said.
Robart was confirmed unanimously by the Senate.
5) Helping people with ‘immediate needs’ and ‘immediate problems’
It was also during his confirmation hearing that Robart spoke about using the courts to help people who felt disenfranchised.
“I was introduced to people who in many times felt that the legal system was stacked against them or was unfair,” he said. “And one of the things, I think, that my time there helped accomplish was to show them that the legal system was set up for their benefit and that it could be, if properly used, an opportunity for them to seek redress if they had been wronged.”
Robart added that he would treat everyone in his courtroom with “dignity and respect.”
“Working with people who have an immediate need and an immediate problem that you are able to help with is the most satisfying aspect of the practice of law. I think in terms of — if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed by the Senate, I will take that experience to the courtroom with me, recognize that you need to treat everyone with dignity and with respect, and to engage them so that when they leave the courtroom they feel like they had a fair trial.”