Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Semi-Serious Question of Legal Strategy

One of the things Trump v. Hawaii does is that it seems to narrow the circumstances where we can infer discriminatory intent, at least in cases where the allegedly discriminatory-action does not wholly encompass all members of the putatively targeted group.

Of course, Trump is not the only precedent on that point, and in most cases it won't be dispositive one way or the other.

But here's my question: Suppose you were a plaintiff's attorney in a discrimination case, one which hinges on inferring discriminatory intent even though not all members of the protected class were targeted by the action you are challenging. And suppose you had a relatively liberal judge whom you were fairly confident detests the Trump decision. Finally, let's say that for whatever reason your case was somewhat politically contentious and so the judge might not be ideologically-predisposed to rule in your favor anyway.

Obviously, you can cite a string of precedent that supports a favorable ruling in your case. My question is: Would it be helpful to append a "but see" cite to Trump v. Hawaii at the end?

Of course, if Trump is a really powerful precedent for the defense, then one probably doesn't want to draw attention to it in this way. But if it isn't -- if the suggestion is more "in the evolution of anti-discrimination, the defense's argument takes us further down the road Trump v. Hawaii has paved" -- one might think that could be a savvy way of turning the judge against that approach.

I suppose this is another way of asking how quickly Trump v. Hawaii will become part of the anti-canon -- at least for liberal judges.

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