David G. Savage writes in the L.A. Times:
“The law in this area is not entirely clear. Beginning in 1988, Congress ordered deportation for noncitizens who are convicted of an “aggravated felony,” and it cited specific examples such as murder and rape. Later the law was expanded to include a general category of “crimes of violence.” This was defined to include offenses that involve a use of physical force or a “substantial risk” that force would be used.
Judges have been divided as to what crimes call for deportation. Looming over Tuesday’s argument was an opinion written two years ago by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. He spoke for an 8-to-1 majority in striking down part of a federal law known as the Armed Career Criminal Act. It called for extra years in prison for people convicted of more than one violent felony.
In that case, the extra prison term was triggered by the defendant’s possession of a shotgun. In frustration, Scalia and his colleagues said the law was unconstitutionally vague because they could not decide whether gun possession is itself evidence of a violent crime.
“You could say the exact same thing about burglary,” Justice Elena Kagan said Tuesday. A midday burglary of a home could result in violence, she said, but perhaps not if it were an empty garage or an abandoned house. “So it seems like we’re replicating the same kind of confusion,” she said.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer said judges have no way to decide which crimes typically or usually involve violence. “We’re just left guessing,” he said, suggesting a better approach would be “look at what the person did.”
But Deputy Solicitor Gen. Edwin Kneedler said a home burglary poses a risk of violence. And he said the court should defer to the government on matters of immigration. The law, he said, calls for a “broad delegation” of authority to executive officials.
This is the argument government lawyers made in defense of President Obama’s use of executive authority to try to shield millions of immigrants from deportation. It is also the argument that would call for upholding an aggressive deportation policy if pursued by the Trump administration.”
Interesting juxtaposition here! The key opinion relied on by the immigrant is an 8-1 decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), written by conservative judicial icon Justice Antonin Scalia in which he ripped apart on constitutional vagueness grounds a provision of the Armed Career Criminal Act that is virtually identical to the deportation statute.
The Obama Administration reacted by vigorously reasserting in the lower courts and the Immigration Courts its right to ignore Justice Scalia’s reasoning in the civil deportation context and continue to deport individuals convicted of residential burglary.
But, liberal judicial icon Judge Stephen Reinhardt and one of his colleagues on the Ninth Court of Appeals seized on Scalia’s opinion and applied it to the immigration law to block such deportations. The Seventh Circuit followed suit, but the Fifth Circuit did not, thereby setting up a “circuit split” — something that often convinces the Supreme Court to exercise its discretionary authority to intervene by granting a “writ of certiorari.”
The case is Lynch v. Dimaya, No. 1
5-1498 which, as pointed out by David Savage, will soon morph into Sessions v. Dimaya. Stay tuned for the results!
Did you know that: The Government’s lawyer in Dimaya, career Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler, a friend and an outstanding public servant, has argued more than 125 U.S. Supreme Court cases during his distinguished Government career, more than any other living lawyer!
Wow! Most lawyers would feel lucky and privileged to argue a single case before the Supreme Court. I know I sure would. Just think of the hours of preparation spent in preparing to argue well over 100 cases!
When I was Deputy General Counsel and Acting General Counsel of the Legacy INS, I used to help the Solicitor General’s Office prepare for oral arguments in immigration cases. So, I know how intensive the preparation process is.
At least once, I was asked to sit with the Deputy SG arguing the case at counsel table in the Court. That was as close as I ever got to appearing before the Court.
I remember one case that I observed — I can’t remember if I was at counsel table or in the audience — was the immigration classic INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987) establishing the generous “well-founded fear = reasonable likelihood” standard for asylum, which I ended up having to apply thousands of times as a trial and appellate judge in the Immigration Courts. That day, however, we were on the “losing” side of the argument, having presented the case for a more stringent standard. Nevertheless, I think the Court got it completely right.
The “winning” lawyer before the Court that day was a young immigration attorney from San Francisco, Dana Marks Keener, now known as Judge Dana Leigh Marks of the San Francisco Immigration Court and the President of the National Association of Immigration Judges. Since then, of course, Dana and I have become judicial colleagues and great friends. I often refer to her as “the founding mother of modern U.S. asylum law.”