The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held a hearing Thursday to examine the validity of a Washington D.C. gag order on President Trump’s family and associates imposed by U.S. District. Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell. The order was issued in response to a fiery speech made by the President to a mob of supporters outside of the White House just prior to the U.S. Capitol breach.
At the hearing, the three-judge panel seemed open to overruling the hotly-contested order, with Judge Karen L. Henderson suggesting that Chief Judge Howell had exceeded her authority in imposing the restrictions. “The consensus here is that there was some overreach in this particular instance,” Judge Henderson said after hearing arguments from both sides.
Trump’s legal team, arguing in defense of the order, contended that Howell’s actions were legally justified, and that her order should remain in place. However, the panel’s apparent willingness to part ways with Howell’s interpretation of the President’s First Amendment rights may set the stage for a more limited version of the gag order, or even a full reversal.
The D.C. Circuit’s final decision on the matter is expected to arrive in weeks. Whatever they decide, it is likely to have significant implications for the powers of district court judges at a challenging and political time. For this reason, observers from both sides of the aisle are likely to be paying close attention to the panel’s opinion as the situation unfolds.