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Sessions v. Dimaya

Supreme Court of the United States

January 17, 2017, Argued, Reargued October 2, 2017; April 17, 2018, Decided

No. 15-1498.

Opinion

Justice Kagan announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, III, IV-B, and V, and an opinion with respect to Parts II and IV-A, in which Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, and Justice Sotomayor join.

Three Terms ago, in Johnson v. United States, this Court held that part of a federal [***10]  law’s definition of “violent felony” was impermissibly vague. See 576 U. S. ___, ___, 135 S. Ct. 2551, 192 L. Ed. 2d 569, 576 (2015). The question in this case is whether a similarly worded clause in a statute’s definition of “crime of violence” suffers from the same constitutional defect. Adhering to our analysis in Johnson, we hold that it does.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) renders deportable any alien convicted of an “aggravated felony” after entering the United States. 8 U. S. C. §1227(a)(2)(A)(iii). Such an alien is also ineligible for cancellation of removal, a form of discretionary relief allowing some deportable aliens to remain in the country. See §§1229b(a)(3), (b)(1)(C). Accordingly,  [*1211]  removal is a virtual certainty for an alien found to have an aggravated felony conviction, no matter how long he has previously resided here.

The INA defines “aggravated felony” by listing numerous offenses and types of offenses, often with cross-references to federal criminal statutes. §1101(a)(43); see Luna Torres v. Lynch, 578 U. S. ___, ___, 136 S. Ct. 1619, 194 L. Ed. 2d 737, 739 (2016). According to one item on that long list, an aggravated felony includes “a crime of violence (as defined in section 16 of title 18 . . . ) for which the term of imprisonment [is] at least one year.” §1101(a)(43)(F). The specified statute, 18 U. S. C. §16, provides the federal criminal code’s definition of “crime of violence.” Its two parts, often [***11]  known as the elements clause and the residual clause, cover:

“(a)an offense that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or

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138 S. Ct. 1204 *; 200 L. Ed. 2d 549 **; 2018 U.S. LEXIS 2497 ***; 86 U.S.L.W. 4189; 27 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 161; 2018 WL 1800371

JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS, III, ATTORNEY GENERAL, Petitioner v. JAMES GARCIA DIMAYA

Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.

Prior History:  [***1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Dimaya v. Lynch, 803 F.3d 1110, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 18045 (9th Cir., Oct. 19, 2015)

Disposition: 803 F. 3d 1110, affirmed.

CORE TERMS

aliens, residuary clause, courts, vague, slip opinion, ordinary case, categorical, burglary, cases, substantial risk, due process, deportation, vagueness doctrine, physical force, Immigration, offenses, fair notice, violent crime, delegates, unconstitutionally vague, offender, removal, sentencing, violence, aggravated felony, Friends, words, potential risk, ordinary-case, prior conviction

Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Scope of Protection, Governments, Legislation, Vagueness, Criminal Law & Procedure, Adjustments & Enhancements, Criminal History, General Overview, Sentencing Guidelines, Armed Career Criminals