President-elect Donald J. Trump promised to undo many of the Obama administration’s most ambitious regulations. But even before he takes office, federal courts in Texas are doing some of the work for him.
A federal judge’s injunction this week halted a Labor Department rule that would have made millions more Americans eligible for overtime pay.
Over the last two years, Federal District Court judges in the state have chipped away at Mr. Obama’s legacy by striking down or suspending no fewer than five regulations, executive orders or actions, and guidelines, including an action that would have allowed illegal immigrants who are parents of United States citizens to remain in the country, and guidance that would have expanded restroom access for transgender students.
The injunction in the overtime case, issued on Tuesday by a judge nominated by Mr. Obama, has many advocates and legal experts concerned.
“It’s a troubling trend because it’s essentially delegating policy oversight to a set of handpicked judges in the South, who can pick and choose which regulations move forward and which do not,” said Matthew Wessler, a principal at the firm Gupta Wessler who has argued multiple cases involving workers before the Supreme Court.
The case over the overtime rule, which would have made an estimated 4.2 million people newly eligible for time-and-a-half overtime pay, provides some insight into why opponents of regulation conclude that descending on Texas increases their odds of success.
In an interview, the Nevada attorney general, Adam Paul Laxalt, whose state was the lead plaintiff in the case against the overtime rule, said that the coalition of states it led had elected to file in the Eastern District of Texas because the district had a reputation for handing down rulings quickly.
“That was what is known as a fast docket,” Mr. Laxalt said. “The decision was made based on a bunch of variables, but we thought we may be able to get the quickest answer.” Citing the Dec. 1 effective date for the new regulation, he said, “We were really fighting the clock.”
Mr. Laxalt added that Nevada had been part of multistate litigation that was filed in other states, including a case over a rule regulating waterways, which was filed in North Dakota.
Texas has a rich culture of antigovernment litigation. In 2013, Greg Abbott, now the state’s governor and then its attorney general, jokingly described a typical workday as, “I go into the office, I sue the federal government and I go home.” He bragged that he had sued the Obama administration 25 times in the previous four years.
While federal judges in Texas are officially appointed by the president, not state officials, Senate custom gives the state’s two United States senators considerable influence over the nominations.
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