(CNN)Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a scathing dissent late Friday night, castigating the government for repeatedly asking the Supreme Court on an emergency basis to allow controversial policies to go into effect and charging her conservative colleagues on the court with being too eager to side with the Trump administration on such requests.
The justice wrote that granting emergency applications often upends “the normal appellate process” while “putting a thumb on the scale in favor of the party that won.” Targeting her conservative colleagues, she said “most troublingly, the Court’s recent behavior” has benefited “one litigant over all others.”
Sotomayor’s dissent was in response to the court’s 5-4 order granting the government’s request to allow its controversial “public charge” rule to go into effect in every state. The rule makes it more difficult for immigrants to obtain legal status if they use public benefits like food stamps and housing vouchers. Although the three other liberal justices on the bench also dissented, they remained silent and did not join Sotomayor’s decision.
“Claiming one emergency after another, the Government has recently sought stays in an unprecedented number of cases,” Sotomayor said. “It is hard to say what is more troubling,” she said, pointing to the case at hand, “that the Government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course, or that the Court would grant it.” She noted that in the case at hand, the lower court order that the Supreme Court lifted was narrow and only impacted one state.
Sotomayor’s comments come as the Supreme Court is in the midst of a blockbuster term considering issues such as abortion, LGBTQ rights, the Second Amendment, immigration and President Donald Trump’s effort to shield his financial records. The justices are behind schedule in releasing opinions, and court watchers have questioned if the delay is caused in part by Chief Justice John Roberts’ required participation in the impeachment proceedings, or if the justices themselves are fractured over a number of cases. Although Sotomayor wrote alone, her opinion suggests unease behind the scenes.
For its part, the government, supported by at least two conservative justices, has argued in the past that emergency requests have become necessary because lower courts are increasingly issuing broad preliminary injunctions that cover states that weren’t a party to the original lawsuit.
On the one hand, Sotomayor says that the court is lowering its standards when considering emergency requests from the government. On the other hand, the Trump administration counters that such requests are necessary because lower courts are issuing overly broad preliminary opinions, prematurely blocking its policies while the appeals process plays out.
Friday’s order came after the Supreme Court last month, again dividing 5-4, allowed the “public charge” rule to go into effect across the country — except for Illinois — because the state was governed by a separate judicial order.
The Trump administration took the next step of asking the court to lift the Illinois order. That request was granted Friday.
Now the public charge rule, scheduled for implementation Monday — will take effect nationwide while the legal process plays out.
“This final rule will protect hardworking American taxpayers, safeguard welfare programs for truly needy Americans, reduce the Federal deficit, and re-establish the fundamental legal principle that newcomers to our society should be financially self-reliant and not dependent on the largess(e) of United States taxpayers,” the White House sai