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Adame v. Lynch (U.S. Sup. Ct.)

At issue in Adame v. Lynch was whether Courts of Appeal have jurisdiction to review mixed questions of law and fact when considering a noncitizen’s appeal of the refusal by a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to cancel a removal order.  In response to I.N.S. v. St. Cyr—a 2001 Supreme Court decision holding that denying judicial review of deportation orders in habeas corpus proceedings was inconsistent with the Constitution’s Suspension Clause—Congress enacted the REAL ID Act of 2005 in an attempt to foreclose such constitutional concerns, including a provision stating that “[n]othing in [certain provisions which limit judicial review] shall be construed as precluding review of constitutional claims or questions of law.”

In 2009, Alvaro Adame pleaded guilty to the charge of drinking in a public park. After the Department of Homeland Security sought Adame’s removal from the United States, Adame sought to demonstrate that he had ten years of continuous presence in the United States in order to be eligible for cancellation of removal.  Despite testimony involving tax returns, sworn affidavits from landlords, and character references, the Immigration Judge denied the cancellation of removal application due to insufficient evidence, which the BIA affirmed. 

Adame subsequently appealed to the United States Court of Appeal for the Seventh Circuit, arguing that the Immigration Judge had incorrectly applied law to the facts of the case by requesting additional evidence of continued physical presence when the request was not justified by a reasonable finding of lack of credibility and the requested evidence was not reasonably available.  The Seventh Circuit ruled that it was without jurisdiction to consider Adame’s petition for review.  According to the Court of Appeals, the aforementioned provision of the REAL ID Act precludes a court from reviewing an Immigration Judge’s application of the law to the facts of a case, and instead limits the court to reviewing constitutional claims and questions of statutory construction.  Adame asked the Supreme Court to review his case.

On July 20, 2015, CAC filed a friend of the court brief in support of Adame, which argued that the Supreme Court should grant review and clarify that, consistent with the constitutional guarantee of habeas corpus, the REAL ID Act requires judicial review of mixed questions of law and fact.  Article I of the Constitution makes explicit that “[t]he Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended,” except in very limited circumstances, that is, “when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”  The Court has recognized in previous cases that the Framers’ inclusion of this specific language in the Constitution is a testament to the central role that the writ plays in preserving liberty under our system of government, and there is substantial evidence that the writ, as it existed in 1789, allowed for review of the types of questions that today are viewed as mixed questions of law and fact.  Indeed, as the Supreme Court recognized in St. Cyr, “the issuance of the writ was not limited to challenges to the jurisdiction of the custodian, but encompassed detentions based on errors of law, including the erroneous application or interpretation of statutes.”  The Seventh Circuit’s decision in Adame countenanced an erosion of the constitutionally guaranteed protections provided by the Writ of Habeas Corpus.  Our brief urged the Supreme Court to grant certiorari and reverse that decision.

On October 5, 2015, the Supreme Court denied Adame’s petition for a writ of certiorari.