By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Texas on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court for more time to file court papers in its dispute with the federal government over President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration, a move that could delay a ruling in the case until after Obama leaves office.
Twenty-six Republican-governed states led by Texas sued to stop Obama's 2014 plan to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation. Lower courts blocked the executive action, prompting the Justice Department on Friday to launch an appeal to the Supreme Court.
If the request made by Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller for a 30-day extension for filing court papers is granted, it could run out the clock on the court being able to hear the case in its current term, which runs until June.
The Obama administration opposes the extension, according to Keller's letter, and could counter by asking the court to expedite the case, legal experts say. A Justice Department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.
If Texas gets its way and the court ultimately decides to hear the dispute without expediting it, oral arguments would not be held until fall 2016 with a ruling not likely until after Obama leaves office in January 2017.
The Obama administration maintains Texas and the other states have no legal basis to challenge Obama's action. The states contends Obama overstepped his presidential powers by bypassing Congress and acting unilaterally.
Obama's executive order would let up to 4.7 million illegal immigrants live in the United States without threat of deportation. It was directed at people with no criminal records whose children are U.S. citizens.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)