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Shutdown halts civil court cases — including those against Trump

The chief judge of Manhattan's federal courts said the suspension will remain until the president signs a budget restoring Justice Department funding.
Image: President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Dec. 13, 2018.
President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Dec. 13, 2018.Evan Vucci / AP

The partial government shutdown prompted the chief judge of Manhattan federal courts Thursday to suspend work on civil cases involving U.S. government lawyers, giving President Donald Trump a reprieve from the progress of some litigation he faces.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon said in a written order that the suspension, requested by U.S. attorneys, will remain in effect for civil litigation involving the United States, its agencies, and its employees until the business day after Trump signs a budget appropriation law restoring Justice Department funding.

The Manhattan courts, with several dozen judges, are among the nation's busiest courts.

A similar order to McMahon's has been issued in the Northern District of Ohio.

In the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, Chief Judge Dora L. Irizarry issued an order Wednesday saying the court "will continue to hear and decide cases without disruption."

Consistent with that order, Judge William F. Kuntz II on Wednesday denied without comment a request by U.S. government lawyers to delay work on a lawsuit against Trump and other defendants. The government had said in court papers that Justice Department attorneys are prohibited from working, "even on a voluntary basis, except in very limited circumstances."

The request was made in a lawsuit accusing the Trump administration of an arbitrary and capricious action and racism for taking away the temporary protected status of 50,000 Haitians after a devastating earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people. The lawsuit recounted numerous instances in which it said Trump had expressed "his animus toward immigrants of color and Haitians in particular."

In Manhattan, McMahon's order suspends action in several civil lawsuits in which Trump is a defendant.

In one, a judge last week ruled that a group of people suing Trump, the Trump Company, and his three eldest children can remain anonymous because they fear retaliation by the president or his followers.

U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield accused Trump of using his "position and platform" in unprecedented fashion to affect court cases. She ruled in a lawsuit in which four plaintiffs sought class-action status to sue for money they lost in a marketing company Trump endorsed in speeches and on "The Celebrity Apprentice."

Government lawyers also are defending Trump against a lawsuit in which the PEN American Center, a literary and human rights organization, accused Trump of violating the First Amendment and his oath to defend the Constitution through "official acts" he has taken.

Another lawsuit against Trump, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission claims that the defendants unconstitutionally enabled Trump to issue Presidential Alerts to cellular telephone users.