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Equal Protection Clause

Maslenjak v. United States - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 7-26-17 featuring Vikrant P. Reddy
Vikrant P. Reddy July 26, 2017

On June 22, 2017, the Supreme Court decided Maslenjak v. United States. At the close of the Bosnian civil war, Divna Maslenjak sought refugee status for herself and her family in the U.S. due to fear of persecution regarding their Serbian identity in modern-day Bosnia and the threat of reprisal against her husband, who she claimed had evaded military conscription in the Bosnian Serb militia. After the family was granted refugee status and Maslenjak became a U.S. citizen, a U.S. court convicted Maslenjak’s husband, Ratko, on two counts of falsifying claims regarding Serbian military service on U.S. government documents, since Ratko had in fact served in the Serbian military. When Ratko applied for asylum to avoid deportation, Divna Maslenjak admitted to lying about her husband’s military service and was charged with two counts of naturalization fraud. At her trial, jurors were told that a naturalization fraud conviction could be carried out for false claims in Maslenjak’s application process, even if the claims did not affect whether she was approved. Convicted on both counts, Divna Maslenjack was stripped of her citizenship. The Sixth Circuit affirmed her conviction.

By a vote of 9-0, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Sixth Circuit and remanded the case. In an opinion by Justice Kagan, the Court held that (1) the text of 18 U.S.C. § 1425(a) -- which prohibits "procur[ing], contrary to law, the naturalization of any person" -- makes clear that, to secure a conviction, the federal government must establish that the defendant's illegal act played a role in her acquisition of citizenship; (2) when the underlying illegality alleged in a Section 1425(a) prosecution is a false statement to government officials, a jury must decide whether the false statement so altered the naturalization process as to have influenced an award of citizenship; and (3) measured against this analysis, the jury instructions in this case were in error, and the government's assertion that any instructional error was harmless if left for resolution on remand. Justice Kagan’s majority opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor. Justice Gorsuch filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Justice Thomas joined. Justice Alito filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

And now, to discuss the case, we have Vikrant P. Reddy, who is Senior Research Fellow at the Charles Koch Institute.

Ziglar v. Abbasi - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 7-25-17 featuring David B. Rivkin
David B. Rivkin Jr. July 25, 2017

On June 19, 2017, the Supreme Court decided Ziglar v. Abbasi, which was consolidated with the cases Ashcroft v. Abbasi , and Hasty v. Abbasi. Ziglar v. Abbasi was part of a series of lawsuits brought by Muslim, South Asian, and Arab noncitizens who were detained after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and treated as “of interest” in the ensuing government investigation. These plaintiffs contended, among other things, that the conditions of their confinement violated their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection. The defendants included high-level officials in the Department of Justice (DOJ) such as Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI director Robert Mueller, and Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner James Ziglar, as well as various detention officials. Some of the parties reached settlements, and the district court eventually dismissed some of the allegations against the DOJ officials for failure to state a claim. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of plaintiffs’ Free Exercise claims, but otherwise reversed most of the district court’s judgment. Plaintiffs, the Second Circuit held, had adequately pleaded claims for violations of substantive due process, equal protection, the Fourth Amendment, and civil conspiracy, and Defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity. Defendants then sought, and the Supreme Court granted, a petition for writ of certiorari.

By a vote of 4-2, the Supreme Court reversed in part, and vacated and remanded in part, the judgment of the Second Circuit. In an opinion by Justice Kennedy, the Court held that (1) the limited reach of actions brought under Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents informs the decision whether an implied damages remedy should be recognized in this case; (2) considering the relevant special factors in this case, a Bivens-type remedy should not be extended to the "detention policy claims" -- the allegations that the executive officials and wardens violated the detainees' due process and equal protection rights by holding them in restrictive conditions of confinement, and the allegation that the wardens violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments by subjecting the detainees to frequent strip searches -- challenging the confinement conditions imposed on the detainees pursuant to the formal policy adopted by the executive officials in the wake of the September 11 attacks; (3) the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit erred in allowing the prisoner-abuse claim against Warden Dennis Hasty to go forward without conducting the required special-factors analysis; and (4) the executive officials and wardens are entitled to qualified immunity with respect to respondents' civil conspiracy claims. 

Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, III, IV–A, and V, in which the Chief Justice and Justices Thomas and Alito joined. Justice Kennedy also delivered an opinion with respect to Part IV–B, in which the Chief Justice and Justice Alito joined. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Ginsburg joined. Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Gorsuch took no part in the consideration or decision of these cases. 

To discuss the case, we have David B. Rivkin, who is a Partner at Baker & Hostetler LLP.

Courthouse Steps: Sessions v. Morales-Santana Update - Podcast

Civil Rights Practice Group Podcast
Curt Levey June 27, 2017

On November 9, 2016, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Lynch v. Morales-Santana. Morales-Santana’s father was born in Puerto Rico but acquired U.S. citizenship in 1917 under the Jones Act of Puerto Rico. Morales-Santana was born in 1962 in the Dominican Republic to his father and Dominican mother, who were unmarried at the time. In 1970, upon his parents’ marriage, he was statutorily “legitimated” and was admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident in 1976.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which was in effect at the time of Morales-Santana’s birth, limits the ability of an unwed citizen father to confer citizenship on his child born abroad, where the child’s mother is not a citizen at the time of the child’s birth, more stringently than it limits the ability of a similarly situated unwed citizen mother to do the same.

In 2000, Morales-Santana was placed in removal proceedings after having been convicted of various felonies. An immigration judge denied his application for withholding of removal on the basis of derivative citizenship obtained through his father. He filed a motion to reopen in 2010, based on a violation of equal protection and newly obtained evidence relating to his father, but the Board of Immigration Appeals denied the motion. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the Board’s decision, however, and concluded that Morales-Santana was a citizen as of birth. The Attorney General of the United States then obtained a grant of certiorari from the Supreme Court.

The two questions before the Supreme Court were: (1) whether Congress’s decision to impose a different physical-presence requirement on unwed citizen mothers of foreign-born children than on other citizen parents of foreign-born children violates the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection; and (2) whether the court of appeals erred in conferring U.S. citizenship on respondent, in the absence of any express statutory authority to do so.

Featuring: 

  • Curt Levey, President, Committee for Justice; Legal Affairs Fellow, Freedom Works

Ziglar v. Abbasi - Post-Argument SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 2-10-17 featuring Jamil Jaffer
February 10, 2017

On January 18, 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Ziglar v. Abbasi, which was consolidated with the cases Ashcroft v. Abbasi and Hasty v. Abbasi. Ziglar v. Abbasi was part of a series of lawsuits brought by Muslim, South Asian, and Arab non-citizens who were who were detained after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and treated as “of interest” in the ensuing government investigation. These plaintiffs contended, among other things, that the conditions of their confinement violated their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection. The defendants included high-level officials in the Department of Justice (DOJ) such as Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI director Robert Mueller, and Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner James Ziglar, as well various detention officials. Some of the parties reached settlements, and the district court eventually dismissed some of the allegations against the DOJ officials for failure to state claim. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of plaintiffs’ Free Exercise claims, but otherwise reversed most of the district court’s judgment. Plaintiffs, the Second Circuit held, had adequately pleaded claims for violations of substantive due process, equal protection, the Fourth Amendment, and civil conspiracy, and Defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity. Defendants then sought, and the Supreme Court granted, a petition for writ of certiorari.

The questions now before the Supreme Court are threefold: (1) whether the Second Circuit, in finding that Plaintiffs’ due process claims did not arise in a “new context” for purposes of implying a remedy under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, erred by defining “context” at too high a level of generality; (2) whether the Second Circuit erred in denying qualified immunity to Defendant Ziglar; and (3) whether the Second Circuit erred in holding that Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment Complaint met the pleading requirements identified by the Supreme Court in its 2009 decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal.

To discuss the case, we have Jamil N. Jaffer, who is Adjunct Professor of Law and Director of the Homeland and National Security Law Program at the Antonin Scalia Law School.

Supreme Court Preview: What Is in Store for October Term 2016? - Event Audio/Video

Co-Sponsored by the Faculty Division and the Practice Groups
Thomas C. Goldstein, Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, Carrie Severino, George J. Terwilliger, Robert Barnes September 28, 2016

October 4th will mark the first day of oral arguments for the 2016 Supreme Court term. The Court's docket already includes major cases involving insider trading, the Fourth Amendment, the Sixth Amendment, the Eighth Amendment, criminal law, IP and patent law, the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses, the Fair Housing Act, and voting rights.

The full list of cases granted thus far for the upcoming term can be viewed on SCOTUSblog here. The panelists will also discuss the current composition and the future of the Court.

This event was held on September 27, 2016, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

Featuring:

  • Mr. Thomas C. Goldstein, Goldstein & Russell PC
  • Prof. Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, Georgetown Law Center
  • Ms. Carrie Severino, Judicial Crisis Network
  • Hon. George J. Terwilliger, McGuireWoods LLP
  • Moderator: Mr. Robert Barnes, The Washington Post

National Press Club
Washington, DC