Texas asked the Supreme Court on Monday for a scheduling change that could determine whether the Obama administration gets a chance to implement executive actions that would affect millions of undocumented immigrants.
Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller filed a motion Monday for a 30-day extension for Texas and 25 other states to respond to the government’s petition last week. The government asked the court to review an appeals court ruling that blocks the administration from implementing actions announced in November 2014.
In a typical case, Texas’ move would be an uncontroversial and mundane part of scheduling. But the timing in this case could determine whether the Supreme Court decides the case before the term ends at the end of June, and before President Barack Obama leaves office.
The government has objected to the extension, Keller said in the motion.
The Texas motion and the administration’s objection sets up an unusual conflict over Supreme Court administration. The justices’ decision on the scheduling issue could hint at whether they want to hear the high-interest immigration case this term, or at all.
If the justices grant Texas’ request, the extension would give the state until Jan. 20, 2016, to file a brief in opposition to the government’s petition for the court to hear the case. That date would be near the deadline for the Supreme Court to take cases this term. Leaving the case until next term would probably mean that it is decided after Obama leaves office on Jan. 20, 2017.
Keller cited “numerous pressing deadlines” in cases that the Texas Attorney General’s Office is handling, including oral arguments at the Supreme Court in a redistricting case Dec. 8, to show that the requested extension “rests on good cause arising from the deadlines recited above.”
Keller also argued that the Supreme Court shouldn’t decline his request for an extension if the government wants the justices to decide the case this term, saying the government didn’t take all the legal steps it could have to speed the case to the high court.
The government wants the justices to remove a preliminary injunction from a Texas federal district court judge who is overseeing a challenge from 26 states over Obama’s authority to issue the executive actions.
“If petitioners’ opposition stems from concern about short-term consequences of the district court’s preliminary injunction, petitioners could have sought a stay pending appeal,” Keller wrote in the motion. “But after the district court and court of appeals months ago denied petitioners’ motions to stay the preliminary injunction pending appeal, petitioners declined to seek a stay from this court.”
The Justice Department intends to oppose Texas’ 30-day extension request. “The case presents issues of national importance and the Department believes it should be considered expeditiously,’’ spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said.