The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court today to issue an unusually quick ruling on the Pentagon's policy of restricting military service by transgender people.
It's the fourth time in recent months the administration has sought to bypass lower courts that have blocked some of its more controversial proposals and push the high court, with a conservative majority, to weigh in quickly on a divisive issue.
Earlier this month, the administration asked the high court to fast-track cases on the president's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields young immigrants from deportation. Administration officials also recently asked the high court to intervene to stop a trial in a climate change lawsuit and in a lawsuit over the administration's decision to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, a frequent target of criticism by President Donald Trump, is involved in three of the cases.
Mr Trump's recent salvo against the "Obama judge" who ruled against his asylum policy — not one of the issues currently before the Supreme Court — prompted Chief Justice John Roberts to fire back at the president for the first time for feeding perceptions of a biased judiciary.
The Supreme Court almost always waits to get involved in a case until both a trial and appeals court have ruled in it. Often, the justices wait until courts in different areas of the country have weighed in and come to different conclusions about the same legal question.
So it's rare for the justices to intervene early as the Trump administration has been pressing them to do. One famous past example is when the Nixon administration went to court to try to prohibit the publication of the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of US involvement in the Vietnam War.
In the military case, the administration argued that the Supreme Court should step in before an appeals court rules because the case "involves an issue of imperative public importance: the authority of the US military to determine who may serve in the Nation's armed forces."
In a statement, Peter Renn, an attorney for Lambda Legal, which brought one of the challenges to the transgender military policy, called the Trump administration's action today a "highly unusual step" that is "wildly premature and inappropriate."
The Pentagon initially lifted its ban on transgender troops serving openly in the military in 2016, under President Barack Obama's administration. But the Trump administration revisited that policy, with Trump ultimately issuing an order banning most transgender troops from serving in the military except under limited circumstances. Several lawsuits were filed over the administration's policy change, with lower courts all ruling against the Trump administration.
The court will hear arguments in the census question case in February. It's unclear when it will act on the administration's other requests.