Luna Torres v. Lynch

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Immigration
  • Date Filed: May 19, 2016
  • Case #: 14–1096
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: KAGAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, GINSBURG, and ALITO, JJ., joined. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which THOMAS and BREYER, JJ., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

State crimes constitute "aggravated felonies" for purposes of the Immigration and Nationality Act if the state crime has all of the elements of a corresponding federal statute except the federal jurisdictional element.

Petitioner, a lawful permanent resident, pled guilty to attempted arson in New York state court. Subsequently, immigration officials sought to remove Petitioner after learning of his conviction. Petitioner then applied for and was denied cancellation of removal by the Immigration Judge on the grounds that his prior felony conviction, as an "aggravated felony," made him ineligible for cancellation of removal and other forms of discretionary relief. Petitioner appealed and the Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed. Petitioner then appealed for review to the Second Circuit and was denied. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Second Circuit to deny review, holding that when a state crime has all of the elements of a corresponding federal statute except the federal jurisdictional element, it is immaterial that the state crime lacks that element. The Court reasoned that state and federal crimes would never match up precisely, because federal statutes must apply a jurisdictional element, whereas state crimes do not. The Court acknowledged that the harm of the crime is the same regardless of whether a state or the federal government prosecutes the crime. The Court further noted that when Congress has said nothing about the jurisdictional element, the default rule is that federal courts assume that Congress intended for that element to be excluded from the mens rea requirement of the crime. AFFIRMED.

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