Judge Bea calls out his colleagues

In a dissent from a Ninth Circuit denial of en banc review in Lopez-Rodriguez v. Holder, case no. 06-70868 (9th Cir. Aug. 7, 2008, r’hng en banc denied March 27, 2009), a case concerning the application of the exclusionary rule to civil deportation proceedings, Judge Bea authors an opinion that puts his view of the panel decision — specifically,the reasoning by which the panel reached its decision — rather bluntly.  

In [INS v. Lopez-]Mendoza [, 468 U.S. 1032 (1984)], the Supreme Court clearly held the exclusionary rule does not apply to bar illegally procured evidence from admission in a deportation hearing. Mendoza, 468 U.S. at 1050 (holding that the “balance between costs and benefits comes out against applying the exclusionary rule in civil deportation hearings”). The panel in Lopez-Rodriguez v. Mukasey (Rodriguez), 536 F.3d 1012 (9th Cir. 2008), held precisely the opposite. How we got there is an interesting— and perhaps cautionary—tale. We seem to have turned Supreme Court plurality dicta into majority dicta simply by saying so. Then, we have applied that dicta, in a manner not consistent with the sole case cited in the dicta, to create a new rule—one never envisioned by either the Supreme Court majority or the plurality.

Judge Bea then provides detail of the 4-step analysis he claims the panel engaged in. That analysis is nicely summarized by attorney and blogger Gabriel Malor:

Step One is to dig through Supreme Court decisions for dicta (that is, non-binding editorializing) that is arguably on point. Step Two is to mischaracterize that dicta as binding and creating a new constitutional test. Step Three is to “rephrase” the new rule so as to reach wider conduct. Step Four is to impose the new rule, while acting as if it was obvious all along.

And if you don’t mind mild profanity (by today’s standards, anyway), and especially if you are usually in sync with Judge Bea, I think you’ll find it ‘s worth clicking on the link to Malor’s post just to read the title, which is even more blunt.

Judge Bea’s dissent is joined by three others, including original panel member Judge Bybee, who warned in his separate concurrence with the panel opinion that Ninth Circuit precedent “has set us on a collision course with the Supreme Court.” 

Be Careful with those Plea Agreements

Be very, very careful with the language of your plea agreement. After all, it’s a contract, and deserves the same careful consideration before entering into it.

You might live to regret it, even if it takes 20 years for it to catch up with you, as happened to the defendant in People v. Paredes, case no. D050150 (4th Dist. Feb. 26, 2008). Paredes, a legally resident alien, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in 1987 in part because the prosecutor agreed to a “JRAD” — a judicial recommendation against deportation — that, under 1987 federal law, precluded the government from removing him from the country on the basis of the conviction. He received probation conditioned on serving 365 days in jail.

Flash forward roughly 17 years, to when Paredes applies for citizenship and, in response to this act of patriotism, has removal proceedings initiated against him by the Department of Homeland Security. The removal proceedings are instigated because federal law had since changed to make his conviction a basis for removal notwithstanding the JRAD. Perhaps the worst part: had he been sentenced to just one day less in jail, the conviction would not have subjected him to removal.

After running through a mill of immigration proceedings, Paredes sought relief in superior court. He sought to vacate his conviction, withdraw his guilty plea and enter a plea of not guilty or, alternatively to “enforce” the plea agreement, which he contended contained a “no deportation” promise.

The superior court granted relief by vacating the 20-year-old judgment and entering a new judgment nunc pro tunc that included a sentence of only 364 days in order to avoid a “miscarriage of justice” in light of the facts that Paredes relied on protection from deportation, neither party contemplated the change in federal law and, had they done so, would have agreed to a 364-day jail term as a condition of probation, and its finding that the plea agreement included a “promise of no deportation, embodied in the JRAD.”

The court of appeal reverses, finding no breach of the plea agreement and relying on precedent that so long as the defendant is adequately advised (as Paredes was) that his conviction may have immigration consequences, including deportation, later changes in immigration law do not warrant modification of the judgment.

I’m only disappointed in the result because it kept the court from reaching some interesting issues regarding judgment and jurisdiction. Specifically, whether judgment could be entered nunc pro tunc under the circumstances and whether the court acted in excess of its jurisdiction by modifying the terms of probation after probation was complete.

Half a Primer on Moral Turpitude Analysis

In Cerezo v. Mukasey, case no. 05-74688 (9th Cir. Jan. 14, 2008), the issue before the court is

whether a violation of California Vehicle Code § 20001(a) (leaving the scene of an accident resulting in bodily injury or death) is categorically a crime involving moral turpitude for purposes of 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii).

In concluding it is not, the court walks the reader through the standards for a “categorical approach” to analysis of the issue. When a court fails to find moral turpitude through the categorical approach, its next step is to examine the issue under the “modified categorical” approach. Unfortunately, the court has to cut its modified categorical analysis short because of the state of the record.

Hence, the case is only half a primer.