Constitutional Law,  Immigration,  Judges,  Search & Seizure

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.”