The ruling keeps the partial travel ban in place and will likely trigger more filings as Hawaii seeks to limit the Trump administration's executive order.
"Because Plaintiffs seek clarification of the June 26, 2017 injunction modifications authored by the Supreme Court, clarification should be sought there, not here," US District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson of the United States District Court of the District of Hawaii wrote in a brief order.
On June 26, the Supreme Court allowed part of the travel ban to go into effect for foreign nationals who lack any "bona fide relationship with any person or entity in the United States."
After the ruling, the government issued new guidance providing that applicants must prove a relationship with a parent, spouse, fiancee, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling in the US in order to enter the country.
Other family members -- including grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, and any other "extended" family members would not be considered "close family" under the executive order.
Lawyers for Hawaii immediately challenged the government's interpretation arguing that it violated "the Supreme Court's instruction" in part because it excluded a host of people "with a close familial relationship" to US persons including grandparents. The lawyers asked Judge Watson for clarification.
In Thursday night's order Watson essentially told Hawaii that it needed to go to the Supreme Court for the clarification.
"It is evident that the parties quarrel over the meaning and intent of words and phrases authored not by this Court, but by the Supreme Court," Watson said. "Accordingly, the clarification to the modifications that the parties seek should be more appropriately sought in the Supreme Court," he said.
The Justice Department responded to Watson's order on the scope of the travel ban.
"We are pleased with the District Court's decision. If the plaintiffs elect to proceed, we are confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will again vindicate the President and his constitutional duty to protect the national security of the United States," a DOJ spokesperson said on Thursday.
After the court's order, Neal Katyal, a lawyer for Hawaii tweeted that Watson had made no decision "either way" on the merits of the dispute, but instead had said that the Supreme Court is the "place to decide" since it had issued the ruling in question.