Friday, June 14, 2024

SCOTUS Today: Campos-Chaves v. Garland

Photo by Eric E. Johnson

The U.S. Supreme Court released its opinion today in the case of Campos-Chaves v. Garland. Roberts, Thomas, Kavanaugh, Barrett joined a majority opinion penned by Alito, with Sotomayor, Kagan, and Gorsuch joining a dissent penned by Jackson.

The case is about challenging in absentia orders on grounds of insufficient notice.

Here is the opening paragraph of the majority opinion, laying out the underlying dispute: 

When the Government seeks to remove an alien, it is required to notify the alien of the time and place of the removal hearings. Title 8 U. S. C. §1229(a) describes two types of notice—an initial notice to appear under paragraph (1), and, “in the case of any change or postponement in the time and place of ” the removal proceedings, a notice of hearing under paragraph (2). When an alien fails to appear at his removal hearing despite receiving such notice, he “shall be ordered removed in absentia” if the Government can make certain showings. §1229a(b)(5)(A). The alien can seek to have that order rescinded, however, if the alien can demonstrate that he “did not receive notice in accordance with paragraph (1) or (2) of [§1229(a)].”

The holding is in the next paragraph:

Each of the aliens in these cases argues that he may seek rescission because he did not receive a notice to appear that complies with paragraph (1). We hold that, to rescind an in absentia removal order on the ground that the alien “did not receive notice in accordance with paragraph (1) or (2),” the alien must show that he did not receive notice under either paragraph for the hearing at which the alien was absent and ordered removed. Because each of the aliens in these cases received a proper paragraph (2) notice for the hearings they missed and at which they were ordered removed, they cannot seek rescission of their in absentia removal orders on the basis of defective notice under §1229a(b)(5)(C)(ii).

Jackson's dissent focuses on the statutory language at issue, alongside the recent SCOTUS decisions in Pereira and Niz-Chavez. She writes:

Today’s cases arise because the Government persisted with its practice of issuing facially defective NTAs in the wake of our two prior pronouncements. But, apparently, the third time is the charm, for the majority now finally blesses the Government’s abject noncompliance with the statute’s unequivocal command. The Court concludes that a noncitizen whose NTA does not contain the time-and-date
information that §1229(a)(1) requires has no recourse from an in absentia removal order if the Government subsequently provides some followup notice identifying the time and date of the proceeding he missed. Ante, at 2. But that holding defies the plain text and context of the statute, sidesteps our precedents, and upends the careful in absentia removal framework Congress has crafted. So, I respectfully dissent.


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