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The Supreme Court. Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and congressional Republicans are taking their first steps to rein in federal courts' issuance of nationwide injunctions, signaling a growing frustration over the practice that has halted many of President Trump’s key policies and administrative actions.

Why it matters: The tactic allows a single federal judge to block the implementation of federal policy across the country. It's been sought by Democratic state attorneys general and civil rights groups against some of Trump’s most controversial policies, like the travel ban and separation of undocumented families at the border.

  • Trump and the White House consistently blasted them as "outrageous," even prompting a presidential tweet about how "broken and unfair" the court system is.

What’s happening: A measure approved by the House Judiciary Committee last week would direct federal district judges to issue rulings only to the parties involved in cases before them rather than applying them across the entire country.

  • On Thursday, Sessions issued new guidance instructing federal attorneys to push back more aggressively against nationwide injunctions in lower courts, arguing that it is inconsistent with the Constitution's limits on judicial power. While courts have blocked key priorities of previous presidents, Sessions said an unprecedented number of such injunctions have been issued under the current administration.
"This kind of judicial activism ... has become common in recent years. It has happened to the Trump administration 25 times in less than two years. This trend must stop. We have a government to run."
— Sessions, announcing the policy change

What they’re saying: House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said during a debate on his proposed bill that "judicial overreach in the form of national injunctions has increasingly frustrated administrations of both parties," become too widespread and require congressional action.

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY): "Nationwide injunctions are certainly not appropriate in all circumstances. There are good reasons, of course, to act cautiously before issuing such a broad remedy. But we should not completely dismantle this important tool."

The bottom line: Carl W. Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, told Axios that respected law experts have made plausible arguments for limiting the practice. But new efforts could be difficult to apply and may cause confusion, Tobias said, warning that it could backfire on future Republican litigants seeking to challenge a Democratic president.

  • "After all, GOP AGs first made widespread use of [nationwide injunctions] to thwart Pres. Obama’s policy efforts in ways that resemble the efforts recently made to thwart Pres. Trump’s policy endeavors."

Go deeper

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Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New data from South Africa suggests the Omicron variant spreads more than twice as quickly as the Delta variant, and that immunity from prior infection doesn't appear to protect a person very well against Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The findings are extremely preliminary, and there are still many open questions about how well vaccines work against the variant. But these initial breadcrumbs of data are helping the world begin to understand what it's up against.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
1 hour ago - Technology

AI could end foreign-language subtitles

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

AI companies are developing methods to translate and synthesize voices in ads, movies and TV.

Why it matters: The advances in voice synthesis could help fix bad movie dubbing — and they come as international content is becoming increasingly important to studios and streaming platforms as part of the globalization of entertainment.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 10 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.