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The judges’ ruling puts them at odds with several other federal appeals courts that have ruled the other way. And another case is making its way through the D.C. circuit and could be heard by another three-judge panel.

Mr. Williams said the Justice Department faces an interesting choice: It could allow those other cases to work their way through the rest of the courts, or it could appeal immediately to the Supreme Court.

The administration could also ask the full D.C. circuit to re-hear the case.