In an order yesterday, the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, stayed a nationwide preliminary injunction Judge Daniels issued against a new rule redefining when those applying for legal residency can be denied admission as a “public charge” (see our prior coverage here).
Justice Gorsuch issued a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Thomas, expressing an interest in resolving the broader procedural question of whether District Judges should issue nationwide injunctions at all:
The real problem here is the increasingly common practice of trial courts ordering relief that transcends the cases before them. Whether framed as injunctions of “nationwide,” “universal,” or “cosmic” scope, these orders share the same basic flaw—they direct how the defendant must act toward persons who are not parties to the case.
Equitable remedies, like remedies in general, are meant to redress the injuries sustained by a particular plaintiff in a particular lawsuit. When a district court orders the government not to enforce a rule against the plaintiffs in the case before it, the court redresses the injury that gives rise to its jurisdiction in the first place. But when a court goes further than that, ordering the government to take (or not take) some action with respect to those who are strangers to the suit, it is hard to see how the court could still be acting in the judicial role of resolving cases and controversies. Injunctions like these thus raise serious questions about the scope of courts’ equitable powers under Article III.