Indian American Neal Katyal leading the charge against Travel Ban before the Ninth Circuit

Neal Katyal

Attorney Neal Katyal, who has argued more cases before the Supreme Court than any other lawyer in the land, is currently representing the state of Hawaii in its appeal of President Donald Trump’s executive order banning U.S. entry of travelers from six Muslim-majority nations.

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — A federal appeals court reviewing President Trump’s revised travel ban on the U.S. entry of those from six mostly Muslim countries on Monday provided few details on how it ultimately plans to rule. However, the panel of judges did ask some provocative questions, one judge drew the comparison of the ban to the order that sent Japanese Americans to U.S. internment camps during World War II.

Judge Richard Paez of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asked the Trump administration’s lawyer at a hearing in Seattle whether President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1942 order incarcerating Japanese Americans would be defensible under the same standards he was applying to the travel ban.

Jeffrey Wall, the acting U.S. solicitor general, said Trump’s executive order, from a religious perspective, was “neutral on its face and neutral in operation.” It was directed at the six nations — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — after Congress had previously found that they pose a risk of terrorism, he said.

If a discriminatory order like the one that led to the incarceration of at least 110,000 Japanese Americans was before the court, Wall said, “I wouldn’t be standing here, and the United States wouldn’t be defending it.”

Across the courtroom, Wall’s opposition, Neal Katyal, representing the state of Hawaii, said Paez had made an apt comparison.

The government is asking the court to “defer to the president in a way that history teaches us is very dangerous,” Katyal said.

Katyal is no stranger to the big stage, and has a special distinction amongst the world’s pool of attorneys: he’s argued more cases at the Supreme Court than any other attorney this term. Katyal argued almost 10 percent of all 64 cases, or six of them, before the high court during this term, according to an analysis from lawyer Adam Feldman at Empirical SCOTUS.

“Neal Katyal was far and away the most active attorney at arguments this year,” Feldman wrote. “Katyal led all other attorneys in arguments even when including federal government participation.”

Back at the Ninth Circuit, judge Michael Hawkins observed that as a Justice Department lawyer in President Barack Obama’s administration, Katyal had often argued for judicial deference to the executive branch. “Why shouldn’t we be deferential to the office of president of the United States” on his intentions in issuing the order? he asked Katyal.

The randomly selected three-judge panel — Paez, Hawkins and Ronald Gould, all appointees of former President Bill Clinton — heard 70 minutes of arguments on the government’s appeal of a ruling by a federal judge in Hawaii, who previously opined that Trump’s order appeared to be religiously motivated and blocked its enforcement.

The U.S. Supreme Court is likely to have the last word, perhaps by the end of this year.

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