NASRALLAH v. BARR, No. 18-432, June 1, 2020
SUPREME COURT SYLLABUS:
OCTOBER TERM, 2019 1
NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
NASRALLAH v. BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
No. 18–1432. Argued March 2, 2020—Decided June 1, 2020
Under federal immigration law, noncitizens who commit certain crimes are removable from the United States. During removal proceedings, a noncitizen who demonstrates a likelihood of torture in the designated country of removal is entitled to relief under the international Conven- tion Against Torture (CAT) and may not be removed to that country. If an immigration judge orders removal and denies CAT relief, the noncitizen may appeal both orders to the Board of Immigration Ap- peals and then to a federal court of appeals. But if the noncitizen has committed any crime specified in 8 U. S. C. §1252(a)(2)(C), the scope of judicial review of the removal order is limited to constitutional and legal challenges. See §1252(a)(2)(D).
The Government sought to remove petitioner Nidal Khalid Nasral- lah after he pled guilty to receiving stolen property. Nasrallah applied for CAT relief to prevent his removal to Lebanon. The Immigration Judge ordered Nasrallah removed and granted CAT relief. On appeal, the Board of Immigration Appeals vacated the CAT relief order and ordered Nasrallah removed to Lebanon. The Eleventh Circuit declined to review Nasrallah’s factual challenges to the CAT order because Nasrallah had committed a §1252(a)(2)(C) crime and Circuit precedent precluded judicial review of factual challenges to both the final order of removal and the CAT order in such cases.
Held: Sections 1252(a)(2)(C) and (D) do not preclude judicial review of a noncitizen’s factual challenges to a CAT order. Pp. 5–13.
(a) Three interlocking statutes establish that CAT orders may be re- viewed together with final orders of removal in a court of appeals. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 authorizes noncitizens to obtain direct “review of a final order of re-
NASRALLAH v. BARR Syllabus
moval” in a court of appeals, §1252(a)(1), and requires that all chal- lenges arising from the removal proceeding be consolidated for review, §1252(b)(9). The Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998 (FARRA) implements Article 3 of CAT and provides for judicial review of CAT claims “as part of the review of a final order of removal.” §2242(d). And the REAL ID Act of 2005 clarifies that final orders of removal and CAT orders may be reviewed only in the courts of appeals. §§1252(a)(4)–(5). Pp. 5–6.
(b) Sections 1252(a)(2)(C) and (D) preclude judicial review of factual challenges only to final orders of removal. A CAT order is not a final “order of removal,” which in this context is defined as an order “con- cluding that the alien is deportable or ordering deportation,” §1101(a)(47)(A). Nor does a CAT order merge into a final order of re- moval, because a CAT order does not affect the validity of a final order of removal. See INS v. Chadha, 462 U. S. 919, 938. FARRA provides that a CAT order is reviewable “as part of the review of a final order of removal,” not that it is the same as, or affects the validity of, a final order of removal. Had Congress wished to preclude judicial review of factual challenges to CAT orders, it could have easily done so. Pp. 6– 9.
(c) The standard of review for factual challenges to CAT orders is substantial evidence—i.e., the agency’s “findings of fact are conclusive unless any reasonable adjudicator would be compelled to conclude to the contrary.” §1252(b)(4)(B).
The Government insists that the statute supplies no judicial review of factual challenges to CAT orders, but its arguments are unpersua- sive. First, the holding in Foti v. INS, 375 U. S. 217, depends on an outdated interpretation of “final orders of deportation” and so does not control here. Second, the Government argues that §1252(a)(1) sup- plies judicial review only of final orders of removal, and if a CAT order is not merged into that final order, then no statute authorizes review of the CAT claim. But both FARRA and the REAL ID Act provide for direct review of CAT orders in the courts of appeals. Third, the Gov- ernment’s assertion that Congress would not bar review of factual challenges to a removal order and allow such challenges to a CAT order ignores the importance of adherence to the statutory text as well as the good reason Congress had for distinguishing the two—the facts that rendered the noncitizen removable are often not in serious dis- pute, while the issues related to a CAT order will not typically have been litigated prior to the alien’s removal proceedings. Fourth, the Government’s policy argument—that judicial review of the factual components of a CAT order would unduly delay removal proceedings— has not been borne out in practice in those Circuits that have allowed factual challenges to CAT orders. Fifth, the Government fears that a
Cite as: 590 U. S. ____ (2020) 3 Syllabus
decision allowing factual review of CAT orders would lead to factual challenges to other orders in the courts of appeals. But orders denying discretionary relief under §1252(a)(2)(B) are not affected by this deci- sion, and the question whether factual challenges to statutory with- holding orders under §1231(b)(3)(A) are subject to judicial review is not presented here. Pp. 9–13.
762 Fed. Appx. 638, reversed.
KAVANAUGH, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and GINSBURG, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, KAGAN, and GORSUCH, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which ALITO, J., joined.
Score at least a modest victory for the NDPA over the “Deportation Railroad.”
Once again the Round Table 🛡⚔️ intervened with an amicus brief on the side of justice. Here’s a report from Judge Jeffrey Chase:
Hi All: Our Round Table filed an amicus brief in Nasrallah v. Barr. The Supreme Court issued it’s 7-2 decision in the case today, and we were on the winning side.Kavanaugh wrote the decision, and was joined by Roberts, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Gorsuch. Thomas wrote a dissenting opinion that was joined by Alito.The decision reverses the 11th Cir. and holds that federal courts may review factual issues as well as legal and constitutional issues in CAT appeals filed by noncitizens with criminal convictions falling under 8 C.F.R. section 1252(a)(2)(C).Gibson Dunn assisted us with the drafting of the brief.Best, Jeff
And, of course, as Jeffrey notes, we couldn’t have done it without help from our pro bono heroes 🥇 over at Gibson Dunn! Many, many thanks!
Great that Justice Kavanaugh, Chief Justice Roberts, and Justice Gorsuch “saw the light” on this one! Not sure how often it will happen in the future, but gotta take what we can get.
Also, given the “haste makes waste” policies thrust on EOIR by the DOJ under Trump, and the significant number of fundamental legal and factual errors made by the BIA, judicial review is likely to turn up additional instances of substandard decision-making.