In a 43-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson picked out Trump’s previous comments and those of his close advisers during his 2016 campaign as evidence that his order was meant to discriminate against Muslims and declared there was a “strong likelihood of success” that those suing would prove the directive violated the Constitution.
Watson declared that “a reasonable, objective observer, enlightened by the specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements, and specific sequence of events leading to its issuance, would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion.”
“The illogic of the Government’s contentions is palpable,” Watson wrote. “The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed.”Watson was one of three federal judges to hear arguments Wednesday about the ban, though he was the first to issue an opinion. Federal judges in Washington state and Maryland said they would issue opinions soon.
As the ruling in Hawaii was being handed down, James L. Robart, the federal judge in Washington state who froze Trump’s first travel ban, was hearing arguments about whether he should freeze the second. He said he did not think his first freeze was still in effect, though he did not immediately rule on whether he should issue a new one.
Watson’s decision might not be the last word. He was considering only a request for a temporary restraining order, and while that required him to assess whether challengers of the ban would ultimately succeed, his ruling is not final on that question. The Justice Department could appeal the ruling or wage a longer-term court battle before the judge in Hawaii.