August 5, 2021

President Trump’s defeat may give Supreme Court a rest from personal, policy lawsuits

From the earliest days of his travel ban against predominantly Muslim countries to his latest efforts at reversing the results of the 2020 election, President Donald Trump has dominated much of the Supreme Court’s docket.

Even in the autumn of his presidency, little has changed. The administration came before the justices the week after Election Day in hopes of dismantling the Affordable Care Act, perhaps the most celebrated achievement of his predecessor. Later this month, it will defend its plan to exclude noncitizens from the census count used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives.

The list of Trump-related cases heading the high court’s way remains long even as the president’s days grow short. He wants a rematch with New York City prosecutors seeking access to his tax returns and financial records. He wants to continue building the wall along the southern border while keeping migrants seeking asylum on the Mexican side.

But all that could change after Jan. 20, when President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Many of the cases tied to Trump’s policies and personal entanglements are likely to become moot or, at least, undeserving of the Supreme Court’s time and attention.

“I think that the president has tested the boundaries of what was expected in ways that have generated a lot of litigation,” said Ian Gershengorn, who was the Justice Department’s acting solicitor general during the waning days of the Obama administration. “I would just think the court would want to take a deep breath.”

The justices appear to be doing just that. For the past month, they have been sitting on a petition from Trump’s lawyers that seeks to block the New York subpoena for his tax and financial documents. For two weeks, they have left unanswered his lawyers’ request to intervene in Pennsylvania Republicans’ effort to disallow absentee ballots received for three days after Election Day.

And in the latest sign of the upcoming political transition, the House Judiciary Committee asked the high court Tuesday to postpone the Dec. 2 oral argument in its battle to gain access to grand jury information that was redacted from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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