It was a 36-hour race against the clock that included an email outage, a five-hour time zone difference with a client 5,000 miles away and an imminent deadline as a team of lawyers at Hogan Lovells raced to file the first major legal challenge against the president’s new travel ban this week.
Hogan Lovells attorneys were in almost constant contact with the team for Hawaii’s attorney general, often via speakerphone as they rushed to file a motion asking U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson to block Trump’s second executive order implementing a travel ban on six predominantly Muslim countries. The team wasted no time developing a plan once the second executive order was released Monday, March 6, to first file an amended complaint followed by a brief in support of a restraining order.
It was an unusual situation for the Hogan attorneys who typically handle appellate and U.S. Supreme Court cases. They’re used to knowing well in advance when briefs are due, and while they’ve worked on emergency schedules before, it’s uncommon.
Hogan Lovells partner Neal Katyal, his stateside team and Hawaii rushed to file their brief by 12 a.m. Thursday, Hawaii time, in order to meet a condensed schedule for a March 15 hearing that will be held hours before the executive order goes into effect. The government’s brief is due March 13.
“The whole idea was, let’s give the court as much possible time, and the government, frankly, as much time to defend what we think is a very hard thing to defend,” Katyal said.
Hogan Lovells senior associate Mitchell Reich said the team worked in shifts for the three days in order to work around the five-hour time difference in Hawaii, which contracted Katyal to help with the lawsuit.
The team held nearly round-the-clock conference calls with Hawaii, working “almost like one big law firm,” Katyal said. The Hogan Lovells team was also spread across offices in D.C., New York and Philadelphia.
The group had a running email chain that included seven lawyers from Hogan Lovells and about another eight from Hawaii. At one point, Katyal’s email went down while compiling the final version of the brief. He resorted to texting.
Senior associate Colleen Roh Sinzdak said she worked roughly 23 hours, from 3 a.m. Tuesday to 2 a.m. Wednesday. When she was done, she said her first stop was the firm’s cafe for some much-needed sustenance.
Several other states jumped into the legal fray Thursday. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson asked a U.S. District Court in Seattle to rule that its February injunction against the original order still stands for certain sections of the new one. He was joined by Oregon, Minnesota, Massachusetts and New York.
The new executive order removes Iraq from the list of countries from which visitors are banned, but still includes Syria, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia. The order also doesn’t include an exemption for minority religions, which critics read as applying to Christians.
The ban kicks in at midnight Eastern time on March 16, or 6 p.m. in Hawaii with Daylight Savings kicking in. The first executive order required immediate implementation.
The new order also limits the scope of the ban, excluding current visa holders and refugees already granted asylum, and removes the provision favoring refugees of minority religions.
Hawaii’s new complaint, as does the motion in Washington, alleges the administration’s changes to the ban don’t mitigate its effects on the states and their people.