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Immigration Law

CA8 on CIMT: Ortiz II (Obstruction)

Ortiz v. Barr

"[In Ortiz I, this] Court determined that a conviction under Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.50, subdiv. 2(2) [obstruction of legal process, arrest, or firefighting] is not categorically a crime of violence—and, thus, not an aggravated felony—because the minimum amount of force required to sustain a conviction under that statute is less than the level of force required to constitute a crime of violence under Johnson v. United States, 559 U.S. 133, 140 (2010). Ortiz v. Lynch, 796 F.3d 932, 935-36 (8th Cir. 2015). Accordingly, we granted Ortiz’s petition for review, vacated the order of removal, and remanded to the BIA to decide whether Ortiz’s prior conviction nonetheless subjected him to removal under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(i) as a crime involving moral turpitude.

... Pursuant to the parties’ joint motion, the BIA remanded the case to the IJ to decide the issue. Ortiz again moved to terminate removal proceedings, arguing that a conviction for obstruction of legal process under Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.50, subdiv. 2(2) is not a crime involving moral turpitude. The IJ denied the motion, finding that Ortiz’s prior conviction was categorically a crime involving moral turpitude because (1) the statute requires intentional conduct, and (2) using or threatening force or violence to obstruct legal process entails conduct that is inherently base, vile, or depraved and contrary to accepted rules of morality. Accordingly, the IJ sustained the charge of removability under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(i) and ordered Ortiz’s removal from the United States to Mexico on that basis. The BIA affirmed the IJ’s decision, adding that the minimum conduct punishable by the statute falls within the definition of “moral turpitude” because it involves some aggravating level of force or violence in the context of interference with important and legitimate government functions. Ortiz again filed a timely petition for review.

...  [W]e conclude that the BIA erred in finding that a conviction under Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.50, subdiv. 2(2) is categorically a crime involving moral turpitude. For the foregoing reasons, we hold a conviction under Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.50, subdiv. 2(2) is not categorically a crime involving moral turpitude under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(i). We, therefore, grant Ortiz’s petition for review and vacate the order of removal."

[Attorney David L. Wilson writes: "This statement is particularly helpful and could go unnoticed. The court wrote, “Further, because subdivision 2(2) is a penalty provision, rather than a “statutory element[] that criminalize[s] otherwise innocent conduct,” the presumption in favor of a scienter requirement does not apply. United States v. X-Citement Video, Inc., 513 U.S. 64, 72 (1994).” The government has been trying to invoke this argument for some time, and the Eighth just shut it down.  A round of applause to Anne Carlson for the first round of the fight, and Brittany Bakken for bearing with me for the second round."]