James Robart, 70, is curling a satisfied grin these days. Thirteen years ago, during his confirmation hearing before taking over as federal judge in a district court in Seattle, Robart had exclaimed: “Working with people who have an immediate need and an immediate problem that you are able to help with is the most satisfying aspect of the practice of law”. On February 3, he was able to help thousands of people with an immediate need and an immediate problem.
Immigrants and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim nations had been left stranded after newly-minted President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning them from setting foot on US soil--a measure he deemed necessary for national security. As airports started filling with travellers who learnt of their predicament mid-air and many more found themselves unable to even board flights to the US, Robart issued a temporary stay on the order and prohibited their deportation. “How many arrests have there been of foreign nationals from those seven countries since 9/11?” he asked US department of justice lawyer Michelle Bennett, who was representing the Trump administration during the hearing. When Bennett feigned ignorance, Robart himself replied: “None.”