Led By Justice Thomas, Unanimous Supremes Reject USG’s Attempt To Deport Mexican Man For Consensual Sex With A Minor — “Strict Interpretation” Carries The Day!

Here is then full text of the opinion in Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/16-54_5i26.pdf

Here’s a key excerpt from Justice Thomas’s opinion:

“Relying on a different dictionary (and “sparse” legislative history), the Government suggests an alternative “‘everyday understanding’” of “sexual abuse of a minor.” Brief for Respondent 16–17 (citing Black’s Law Dictionary 1375 (6th ed. 1990)). Around the time sexual abuse of a minor was added to the INA’s list of aggravated felonies, that dictionary defined “[s]exual abuse” as “[i]llegal sex acts performed against a minor by a parent, guardian, relative, or acquaintance,” and defined “[m]inor” as “[a]n infant or person who is under the age of legal competence,” which in “most states” was “18.” Id., at 997, 1375. “‘Sex- ual abuse of a minor,’” the Government accordingly contends, “most naturally connotes conduct that (1) is illegal, (2) involves sexual activity, and (3) is directed at a person younger than 18 years old.” Brief for Respondent 17.

We are not persuaded that the generic federal offense corresponds to the Government’s definition. First, the Government’s proposed definition is flatly inconsistent with the definition of sexual abuse contained in the very dictionary on which it relies; the Government’s proposed definition does not require that the act be performed “by a parent, guardian, relative, or acquaintance.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1375 (6th ed. 1990) (emphasis added). In any event, as we explain below, offenses predicated on a special relationship of trust between the victim and offender are not at issue here and frequently have a different age requirement than the general age of consent. Second, in the context of statutory rape, the prepositional phrase “of a minor” naturally refers not to the age of legal competence (when a person is legally capable of agreeing to a contract, for example), but to the age of consent (when a person is legally capable of agreeing to sexual intercourse).

Third, the Government’s definition turns the categorical approach on its head by defining the generic federal offense of sexual abuse of a minor as whatever is illegal under the particular law of the State where the defendant was convicted. Under the Government’s preferred ap- proach, there is no “generic” definition at all. See Taylor, 495 U. S., at 591 (requiring “a clear indication that . . . Congress intended to abandon its general approach of using uniform categorical definitions to identify predicate offenses”); id., at 592 (“We think that ‘burglary’ in §924(e) must have some uniform definition independent of the labels employed by the various States’ criminal codes”).

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The structure of the INA, a related federal statute, and evidence from state criminal codes confirm that, for a statutory rape offense to qualify as sexual abuse of a minor under the INA based solely on the age of the participants, the victim must be younger than 16.”

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Notwithstanding a supposedly “conservative” Court, going back several Administrations the USG has been losing on a surprisingly regular basis in its attempts to take the most extreme and inclusive interpretations of various already very harsh deportation provisions. And, “strict constructionists” like Justice Thomas and the late Justice Scalia have sometimes had just as much problem with the Government’s overreach as have supposedly more liberal or “middle of the road” justices. That’s why I’m not convinced that Justice Gorsuch (who did not participate in this case) will be as much of a “Government ringer” as some believe, at least in immigration matters.

Despite a number of notable setbacks at the Court, DHS, DOJ, and the BIA all seem to be rather “tone deaf” to the Court’s message. The Executive Branch continues to take the most extreme anti-immigrant positions even where, as in this case, it requires ignoring the “unambiguous” statutory language.

Given the “maximo enforcement” posture of the Trump Administration, there is little reason to believe that the Executive Branch will “get” the Court’s message about more reasonable interpretations of deportation statutes. Hopefully, the Court will continue to stand up against such abuses of Executive authority.

PWS

05-31-17

BREAKING: President Trump Nominates 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch To Supremes — Read My Short Article “Judge Gorsuch Understands — Why It’s High Time For Chevron ‘Judicial Task Avoidance’ To Go”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/neil-gorsuch-supreme-court_us_5890c0e8e4b0522c7d3d592a?ua16n5hws8p6xswcdi&

HuffPost writes:

“Against that backdrop, questions about the court’s independence and role as a check on the executive branch are sure to dominate Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing, which will find Democrats on the offensive and under increasing pressure to block or deny the nomination outright ― much like Republicans obstructed the nomination of Merrick Garland, the highly respected appeals court judge President Barack Obama chose to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

If confirmed, Gorsuch, 49, would bring to the bench a conservative record that will be forever measured against that of Scalia, a towering firebrand of legal conservatism whose death last year forced Trump to issue not one but two lists of potential nominees he’d choose if elected. The lists ― largely assembled with the help of conservative brain trusts ― helped assuage supporters’ fears that Trump might not nominate judges who are conservative enough.

Conservatives need not worry. Gorsuch is an intellectual rising star ― a well-spoken and eloquent writer who enraptures Republican and Libertarian lawyers and law students who come to see him at conferences organized by the Federalist Society, a group that helped Trump put together his Supreme Court wish list.

. . . .

“One key concurring [sic] opinion that earned Gorsuch high praise from conservative commentators was in an immigration case decided last year in which Gorsuch staked out a strong position against the administrative state ― and the way the Supreme Court has made it easier for agencies to interpret laws that judges are better suited to interpret.

“That’s a problem for the judiciary,” Gorsuch wrote in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch. “And it is a problem for the people whose liberties may now be impaired not by an independent decisionmaker seeking to declare the law’s meaning as fairly as possible — the decisionmaker promised to them by law — but by an avowedly politicized administrative agent seeking to pursue whatever policy whim may rule the day.”

Administrative law isn’t exactly an area activists will rally around, but the high court hears a number of cases in which agencies are front and center ― whether the controversy is about transgender rights, health care, the environment or immigration. In that regard, Gorsuch could be skeptical of how the Trump administration ― and future administrations ― reads the law as it exists on the books.” [emphasis added]

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Judge Gorsuch Understands — Why It’s High Time For Chevron “Judicial Task Avoidance” To Go

by Paul Wickham Schmidt 

I haven’t studied Judge Gorsuch’s opinions enough to make any definitive judgement.  But, I really enjoyed his opinion in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, 834 F.3d 1142 (10th Cir. 2016). He “gets it” about the current problems of “deferring to administrative courts like the BIA and the U.S. Immigration Court which are subject to interference and pressure from the Executive, which “owns” them, to implement certain pro-government policies at the expense of fairness and due process for the individual.

Contrary to the HuffPost report above, Judge Gorsuch wrote the unanimous opinion of the court, not a “concurring” opinion.  In it, he exposed the illogic of the Supreme Court’s so-called “Chevron doctrine.”

Chevron is a masterful piece of of Article III “judicial task avoidance” by the Supreme Court. It requires Federal Courts to “defer” to “captive” Executive Branch administrative judges, like the BIA, on important questions of law.  It also allows life-tenured Article III judges to avoid deciding difficult or potentially controversial issues.

In other words, as recognized by Judge Gorsuch, Chevron provides “cover” for Article III judges to avoid their sole constitutional responsibility of independently resolving legal questions. Judge Gorsuch and his colleagues found that Chevron did not apply in the particular circumstance before them.  The BIA had ignored both common sense and due process in trying to reach a result favorable to the Government.  The 10th Circuit reversed the BIA (for the third time in the same case).

Whatever the merits or demerits of the rest of his jurisprudence, I am encouraged that Judge Gorsuch recognizes the critical role of an independent Article III judiciary.  He is also “on to” the problems of over-relying on administrative judges, like the BIA and U.S. Immigration Judges, who work for the Executive and therefore can be subject to Executive rules and pressures that can, and sometimes do, unfairly skew results against individuals seeking justice in administrative courts.

Consequently, Judge Gorsuch should resist attempts by the Trump Administration to short-cut due process in the Immigration Courts and, hopefully, will encourage his colleagues to look closely to insure that individuals are being treated fairly in accordance with the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. If at some point Chevron and it’s even more pernicious progeny  known as “Brand X” — which incredibly encourages administrative courts to “overrule” Article III courts on questions of law — go down the drain, the country and the cause of justice will be well-served.  And, Article III judges will be required to once again fully earn the salaries to which their life-tenure entitles them.

Read Judge Gorsuch’s full opinion in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch below.

http://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/opinions/14/14-9585.pd

PWS

01/31/17

Advocates: Here’s Your Opportunity To Shape The Future Of American Immigration Law — Don’t Blow It! — BIA Asks For Amicus Briefing On Whether “Misprision Of A Felony” Is A “Crime Involving Moral Turpitude!”

Amicus Invitation No. 17-01-05
AMICUS INVITATION (MISPRISION OF A FELONY), DUE FEBRUARY 6, 2017

The Board of Immigration Appeals welcomes interested members of the public to file amicus curiae briefs discussing the below issue:

ISSUES PRESENTED:

  1. (1)  Does the offense of misprision of a felony under 18 U.S.C. § 4 categorically qualify as a crime involving moral turpitude? Please see in that regard and address Matter of Robles- Urrea, 24 I&N Dec. 22 (BIA 2006), reversed, Robles-Urrea v. Holder, 678 F.3d 702 (9th Cir. 2012); and Itani v. Ashcroft, 298 F.3d 1213 (11th Cir. 2002).
  2. (2)  Assuming the Board should decide to adhere to Matter of Robles-Urrea, supra, in circuits other than the Ninth, is the application of such precedent impermissibly retroactive to convictions for acts committed prior to the publication of Matter of Robles- Urrea inasmuch as that decision overruled a prior precedent holding that misprision of a felony was not a crime involving moral turpitude?

Request to Appear as Amicus Curiae: Members of the public who wish to appear as amicus curiae before the Board must submit a Request to Appear as Amicus Curiae (“Request to Appear”) pursuant to Chapter 2.10, Appendix B (Directory), and Appendix F (Sample Cover Page) of the Board of Immigration Appeals Practice Manual. The Request to Appear must explicitly identify that it is responding to Amicus Invitation No. 17-01-05. The decision to accept or deny a Request to Appear is within the sole discretion of the Board. Please see Chapter 2.10 of the Board Practice Manual.

Filing a Brief: Please file your amicus brief in conjunction with your Request to Appear pursuant to Chapter 2.10 of the Board of Immigration Appeals Practice Manual. The brief accompanying the Request to Appear must explicitly identify that it is responding to Amicus Invitation No. 17-01-05. An amicus curiae brief is helpful to the Board if it presents relevant legal arguments that the parties have not already addressed. However, an amicus brief must be limited to a legal discussion of the issue(s) presented. The decision to accept or deny an amicus brief is within the sole discretion of the Board. The Board will not consider a brief that exceeds the scope of the amicus invitation.

Request for Case Information: Additional information about the case may be available. Please contact the Amicus Clerk by phone or mail (see contact information below) for this information prior to filing your Request to Appear and brief.

Page Limit: The Board asks that amicus curiae briefs be limited to 30 double-spaced pages.

Deadline: Please file a Request to Appear and brief with the Clerk’s Office at the address below by February 6, 2017. Your request must be received at the Clerk’s Office within the prescribed time limit. Motions to extend the time for filing a Request to Appear and brief are disfavored. The briefs or extension request must be RECEIVED at the Board on or before the due date. It is not sufficient simply

1

to mail the documents on time. We strongly urge the use of an overnight courier service to ensure the timely filing of your brief.

Service: Please mail three copies of your Request to Appear and brief to the Clerk’s Office at the address below. If the Clerk’s Office accepts your brief, it will then serve a copy on the parties and provide parties time to respond.

Joint Requests: The filing of parallel and identical or similarly worded briefs from multiple amici is disfavored. Rather, collaborating amici should submit a joint Request to Appear and brief. See generally Chapter 2.10 (Amicus Curiae).

Notice: A Request to Appear may be filed by an attorney, accredited representative, or an organization represented by an attorney registered to practice before the Board pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 1292.1(f). A Request to Appear filed by a person specified under 8 U.S.C. § 1367(a)(1) will not be considered.

Attribution: Should the Board decide to publish a decision, the Board may, at its discretion, name up to three attorneys or representatives. If you wish a different set of three names or you have a preference on the order of the three names, please specify the three names in your Request to Appear and brief.

Clerk’s Office Contact and Filing Address:

To send by courier or overnight delivery service, or to deliver in person:

Amicus Clerk
Board of Immigration Appeals Clerk’s Office
5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 2000 Falls Church, VA 22041 703-605-1007

Business hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Fee: A fee is not required for the filing of a Request to Appear and amicus briefs.

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The key case to read is Robles-Urrea v. Holder, 678 F.3d 702 (9th Cir. 2012), where the Ninth Circuit rejected the BIA’s conclusion in Matter of Robles- Urrea, 24 I&N Dec. 22 (BIA 2006) that misprision of a felony is “categorically” a “crime involving moral turpitude” for removal purposes.

In  simple terms, among other things, the BIA is now considering whether to “blow off” the reasoning of the Ninth Circuit in other circuits and adhere to its prior interpretation which the Ninth Circuit found to be wrong and which, of course, is must less favorable to respondents.

So, anybody who thinks that the BIA is about to “bark up the wrong tree” here (and, not for the first time, ignore the well reasoned decision of an Article III Court under the so-called “Chevron doctrine”) better get their group together and get crackin’ on a brief to convince the BIA that the Ninth Circuit got it right.

The deadline is February 6, 2017, (WARNING:  The BIA seldom extends amicus deadlines) and everything you need to know about how to file the brief is in the BIA’s notice, reproduced above.

Here are links to Robles-Urrea v. Holder:  https://casetext.com/case/roblesurrea-v-holder

and Matter of Robleshttps://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/eoir/legacy/2014/07/25/3542.pdf to help you get started.

Good luck!

PWS

01/06/17