Federal courts are often asked to issue various forms of expedited relief, including stays pending appeal. This Article explores a little examined device that federal courts employ to freeze legal proceedings until they are able to rule on a party’s request for a stay pending appeal: the “administrative” or “temporary” stay. A decision whether to impose an administrative stay can have significant effects in the real world, as illustrated by recent high-profile litigation on topics including immigration and abortion. Yet federal courts have not endorsed a uniform standard for determining whether an administrative stay is warranted or clarified the basis for their power to issue such a stay. This Article draws attention to the administrative stay device and proposes standards to guide federal courts in determining when such a stay is appropriate. In so doing, the Article probes the bounds of federal courts’ equitable authority and the interests underlying their decisions about whether to grant interim relief in response to claims of impending harm.

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