The Supreme Court took action on President Trump's travel ban this week that allowed both sides to claim partial victories in the short term, but whether either side is now more likely to prevail in the long term is a matter of debate.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration's request to clarify what it meant when it said that nationals from six countries who had "bona fide" relationships in the U.S. could enter the country, which pleased Trump's opponents. But the high court prevented a federal district court's move to allow more refugees to enter the U.S., which Trump allies cheered.
Josh Blackman, a South Texas College of Law professor who thinks Trump's chances of prevailing at the Supreme Court when it hears oral arguments Oct. 10 and 11 are good, said he thinks the high court's decision this week weakens the case of Trump's opponents.
"Twice the justices have ruled, without dissent, that the Trump administration's case has merit," Blackman said in an email. "This is important."
Blackman said he thinks the justices will address the question of the case's mootness when oral arguments begin next term rather than some time sooner. The debate over whether the case would be moot by the time the Supreme Court considered it hinges on the time frame of Trump's second executive order. His revised travel ban blocks nationals from six majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days and bans all refugees for 120 days. But with the Supreme Court allowing part of the ban to take effect, some say the countdown may have already begun.
"I doubt the case will be dismissed before then, even if the government withdraws the revised executive order," Blackman said. "Under the doctrine of voluntary cessation, courts can retain jurisdiction, even if the government promises to cease a specific course of action, if there is a chance the government will resume that behavior."
Leah Litman, a University of California, Irvine law professor and law clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy, said she did not think the Supreme Court's scheduling of the case would change her outlook on whether the fight becomes moot, nor did she think the high court revealed its thinking about the litigation.
But Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Penn State University law professor who blogs for the left-leaning American Constitution Society, said court-watchers could glean a bit of the justices' thinking from following their actions.
"I think it's fair to say the justices have an opinion of the order," she said. "[On the] mootness question, we'll have an answer soon enough."
Wadhia said she will be watching to see whether the Trump administration looks to implement a more permanent ban amid any of the twists and turns of the litigation going through the courts.
If the Trump administration makes any new policy as the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts review its previous actions, the contours of the case could change yet again.