General Question

SergeantQueen's avatar

How can a federal judge put a halt on an executive order the president created?

Asked by SergeantQueen (7595points) February 3rd, 2017

It doesn’t make sense to me. I thought the president had the final word on everything. I’ve been reading about this and no one understands how this is even possible.

For those who don’t know, a Seattle judge put a temporary lift on the ban preventing people from the middle east from entering the U.S.

I would like to add this: I do NOT want political discussions on what you think of the ban in the first place. I just want to know how it’s possible for a judge to do something like that. Please don’t argue, or add personal opinions regarding Trump, etc. Thank you.

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44 Answers

Darth_Algar's avatar

“I thought the president had the final word on everything.

Good lord no. That’s a dictatorship, not a republic.

SergeantQueen's avatar

@Darth_Algar I meant when it comes to executive orders. A federal judge is lower than the president?

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Congress and the president cannot act unconstitutionally. Also if there are conflicting laws, somebody has to make a cal.

In this case, the state of Washington filed a suit saying the executive order is unconstitutional.

The judge ruled that their suit has merit and could possibly prevail, so he ordered a halt to the executive order until the suit can be adjudicated.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Again, that would equal a dictatorship if the president could just write out and executive order and his decree be absolute. The Constitution establishes three branches of government – executive, legislative and judicial – and carefully establishes checks and balances between them so that no one branch welds ultimate power.

Part of the role of the judicial is to weigh the bills and orders passed by the other two branches and determine if they pass constitutional muster.

SergeantQueen's avatar

@Call_Me_Jay That makes sense. Thank you.

@Darth_Algar I’m sorry if I came across as rude in my comment, I didn’t read your reply correctly at first. I apologize.
But thank you both for your answers, they both helped me understand a bit better. I don’t know much about the technical aspects of the government (referring to the branches and things)

Darth_Algar's avatar

I didn’t read it as rude at all, so no worries.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Not rude at all, thank you.

Regarding the three branches:

Judiciary
The president nominates federal judges, and the Senate must confirm them
The appointments are for life
They can only be removed by impeachment by Congress
They can reverse actions by the other branches which are contrary to Constitutions or other laws

Executive
The President can only be removed by impeachment by Congress
Bills passed by Congress require the President’s signature to become law
He can kill a bill with a veto
All the non-Congress & non-judicial parts of the government report to the President

Legislature
The House and Senate can impeach presidents and judges
They pass bills but the president has to sign them into law, and the judiciary can reverse them on legal grounds
Congress holds the purse strings – while the president is in charge of the government, Congress controls the money

Zissou's avatar

@SergeantQueen No offense, but may I ask your nationality and whether you are over the age of 14? If you are American, you should have learned about the three branches of government and the system of checks and balances no later than 8th grade. It is simply not true that “no one understands how this is even possible”. Every citizen who has completed his or her primary education understands, or should understand, how this is possible. I’m not asking to be snarky, I’m asking because I’m concerned about the state of civics education in the USA. GQ for providing a data point.

If an executive order is contrary to existing law or the Constitution, the judicial branch can negate it. The exact procedural steps which must be followed to do this are less widely known but also less important than the fundamental system of checks and balances.

SergeantQueen's avatar

@Zissou I am American and 18 years old. On my last semester of HS.
I was very ill in my middle school years. In and out of hospitals. I remember some introductions to the unit, but not much more. I was doing research, and I couldn’t find reasons for my question. I might have been wording things wrong because I wasn’t getting answers. So I guess it wasn’t correct of me to generalize things by saying that no one understands.

It was my original understanding that an executive order was the highest order and that no one can reverse that or temporarily lift it. (and also knowing that Obama did a similar thing and there was no judicial interference)

If there is any information I have wrong, or I don’t know, please tell me. I am willing to learn these things, and I really want to. I am sorry for my lack of knowledge. Like I said, I missed a bit of middle school and was usually caught up with a quick 10-minute meeting, a couple worksheets, and a few pages to read. It wasn’t in depth like other students got, just enough to basically make sure I passed tests… sort of.

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stanleybmanly's avatar

You’re looking at the situation from the wrong angle. The President is powerful, but even he cannot issue edicts which violate Constitutional principles. The beauty of our system is that (at least in theory) ANYONE including yourself is entitled to bring an issue they think violates the Constitution before the courts. A judge then decides first of all whether or not your claim has merit, then whether or not you are right. In extraordinary circumstances (and this is certainly one of those) this process can (and should) proceed VERY quickly. The judge, even a low level judge can put a brake on anything ordained by either of the other 2 branches of government. The proponents of the measure then have the option of appealing the judge’s decision to a higher court where a group of judges decide whether the first judge got the matter right.

flutherother's avatar

The American system of government is designed to make sure America can never become a tyranny. Americans had enough of that under the rule of George III. That’s why the power of the president is limited as others have described.

imrainmaker's avatar

Don’t worry you know it better now..)

Seek's avatar

And this is why we need to focus more funding on the public school system.

No person should be a hair’s breadth from adulthood and not know what the President’s job is.

janbb's avatar

@SergeantQueen You are asking great questions and have a wonderful pool of teachers here. I am glad yo are filling in some of the gaps in your education; I wish more people in the population were as curious.

I’m glad you told you that you missed some of your schooling. Like others, I was wondering if these basics just weren’t being taught any more.

cinnamonk's avatar

@SergeantQueen don’t be sorry, this was a great question, and I learned a lot from reading these answers.

janbb's avatar

Edit: “you told us”

ragingloli's avatar

As a follow up, here is how Drumpf responded to that decision:
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”
Tells you everything about his disdain for the separation of powers.

cinnamonk's avatar

wow, three separate lies in one sentence.

Darth_Algar's avatar

In fairness to @SergeantQueen, and her health issues aside, civics education can be woefully inadequate in public school systems. Ever declining funding and ever increasing emphasis in churning out productive, not necessarily thinking, citizens has seen to that. Kudos to her for trying to fill out her knowledge and understanding (and indeed for having self-awareness enough to recognize where it is lacking, too many people mistake their lack of understanding as the ignorance of others).

kritiper's avatar

@ragingloli SO true, SO true! GA!

cazzie's avatar

This is such a good question and I’m so proud to be part of his group right now after reading the answers.

Keep the great questions coming, @SergeantQueen. (and great responses, too)

Judi's avatar

Obama didn;t have any of his (few by comparison) executive orders overturned because he was a constitutional scholar and knew full well the limits of his powers.

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Lonelyheart807's avatar

Checks and balances…

Response moderated (Spam)

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