On Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear eight cases out of the hundreds of petitions received during its summer recess. The cases, which will likely be heard in early 2012, bring to the Court highly specific issues concerning immigration, criminal law, qualified immunity, workers’ compensation and tax law.
The new immigration cases seek to reconcile disagreements among the federal courts of appeal over the government’s ability to deport permanent residents who have committed criminal offenses. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the attorney general can cancel the removal of a deportable immigrant if that person has been a lawful permanent resident for at least five years, has continuously lived in the United States for seven years after admission in any status and has not been convicted of an aggravated felony. In Holder v. Gutierrez and Holder v. Sawyers, which the Court consolidated into a single hearing, the United States sought the removal of men who entered the country illegally when they were children and then committed deportable offenses less than five years after obtaining lawful permanent resident status. The issue before the Court is whether these men, because they were unemancipated minors before obtaining that status, can apply to themselves their parents’ satisfaction of the act’s residency requirement in order to avoid deportation.
The other immigration case granted today, Vartelas v. Holder, was brought by a lawful permanent resident and Greek citizen who in 2003 was refused re-entry into the United States after returning from a one-week visit to Greece on family business because he had been convicted in 1994 of a crime of moral turpitude. Problem is, the law governing Vartelas’ denial of re-entry — the Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act — did not go into effect until 1997. In taking the case, the Court will decide whether this “moral turpitude” provision of the act retroactively applies to people such as Vartelas.
The other granted cases — which deal with an appeals court’s ability to raise a statute of limitations defense when the defendant has not argued one, and the claim of qualified immunity by a private lawyer hired to conduct a governmental internal affairs investigation — will be more relevant to the legal community than the general public.
And in a case that adds a literal dimension to these figurative instances of “inside baseball,” the Court will decide whether a Japanese baseball player who fell through a deck at a resort in the Northern Mariana Islands has to pay the resort, which won the lawsuit, for the costs it incurred in translating written documents to be used in the litigation.
Notably, the Court will be reviewing decisions by the 9th Circuit in five of the eight cases granted today. From 2005 to 2010, the Supreme Court reversed 68.9 percent of the 9th Circuit decisions it reviewed, according to a new report published in this week’s issue of United States Law Week.
This term’s oral arguments begin on Monday, Oct. 3. The Court will conduct another round of case selection at its conference on Oct. 7. Per the Court’s custom, four justices’ votes are required to hear a case.
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