Supreme Court says judge ruled on DACA document turnover too soon

by Debra Cassens Weiss
ABA Journal

The U.S. Supreme Court said Dec. 20 that a federal judge ruled too soon when he ordered document disclosure in lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s decision to wind down a program protecting immigrants brought to the country illegally as minors.

In a per curiam decision (which can be found at, the Supreme Court said U.S. District Judge William Alsup should have ruled first on the federal government’s claim that the courts have no jurisdiction to review the decision to rescind the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The court ruled in five related lawsuits claiming the decision by the Department of Homeland Security violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the due process clause. The plaintiffs had argued the administrative record was incomplete. It consisted of 256 pages of documents—nearly 200 of which were federal court decisions.

Alsup had ordered the government to provide additional records, spurring efforts by the government to seek a stay. The Supreme Court granted the stay on Dec. 8 in a 5-4 decision. (See ABA Journal coverage at

In the Dec. 20 decision, the Supreme Court said the government “makes serious arguments” that at least portions of Alsup’s order are overbroad.

The Supreme Court said Alsup should have stayed his order to resolve the government’s threshold arguments: that Homeland Security has the discretion to end the program and the Immigration and Nationality Act deprives the federal court of jurisdiction.

A ruling for the government on either argument “likely would eliminate the need for the district court to examine a complete administrative record,” the Supreme Court said. It added that its decision “does not suggest any view on the merits” of the plaintiffs’ claims.

Debra Cassens Weiss is a senior writer/online for the ABA Journal, joining the staff in 1986. She had previously worked in many other journalistic capacities, mostly in Illinois, including as a news researcher for WMAQ-TV in Chicago.