Per ScotusBlog, the Supreme Court Thursday resolved United States v. Sineneng-Smith without reaching the merits of the underlying First Amendment question, instead holding that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit improperly injected the issue into the case.
The court sent the case back for reconsideration based on the claims of the parties. Evelyn Sineneng-Smith had been convicted of violating 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(4), which prohibits “inducing or encouraging” unauthorized immigration.
She charged noncitizen clients substantial fees for filing paperwork that she falsely claimed could lead to lawful permanent resident status. After her appeal had been briefed and argued in the 9th Circuit on more prosaic issues, the panel requested briefing on whether the statute was unconstitutionally overbroad, an issue Sineneng-Smith had not raised.
The order for additional briefing was addressed not to the parties but to specified amici curiae, or “friends of the court,” although the parties and other amici could also elect to participate. The panel ordered re-argument in which the amici would have 20 minutes, and Sineneng-Smith only 10.
The 9th Circuit ultimately reversed the conviction because it found that the statute was overbroad, the ground that the court’s re-argument order had brought into the case. In an opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a unanimous Supreme Court held today that “the panel’s takeover of the appeal” warranted reversal and remand for reconsideration in light of “the case shaped by the parties.”
DailyCaller reports the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a federal statute that forbids encouraging illegal aliens to remain in the U.S. unlawfully in a decision Thursday.
The Supreme Court justices voided an earlier decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which had ruled that a federal anti-harboring statute was unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment by restricting free speech. The ruling by the nation’s highest court Thursday upholds the law.
The Supreme Court not only vacated the appeals court’s decision, but also criticized the judges for “drastically” straying from judicial norms.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal stalwart of the bench, wrote the high court’s opinion.
“[T]he appeals panel departed so drastically from the principle of party presentation as to constitute an abuse of discretion,” Ginsburg wrote, and later stated that “a court is not hidebound by the precise arguments of counsel, but the Ninth Circuit’s radical transformation of this case goes well beyond the pale.”
The decision brings to a close a court battle that lasted roughly 10 years.
A grand jury indicted California immigration consultant Evelyn Sineneng-Smith in 2010 for multiple violations of anti-harboring laws, which make it a felony to “encourag[e] or induc[e] an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law.”
Sineneng-Smith encouraged illegal alien clients to apply for a certification that would allow them to remain legally in the country, despite them not qualifying for the certification, according to the indictment. She would charge her clients a fee for this service, and allegedly made millions off of the scheme.
Sineneng-Smith earned more than $3.3 million off of her clients, legal affairs outlet Jurist reported.
In a challenge to the decision, Sineneng-Smith argued that the law violated her right to free speech. The Ninth Circuit reversed her conviction, finding that the entire law was invalid as an over broad restriction of speech.
The Ninth Circuit’s reversal however, was not based on arguments presented by her defense, but by third party arguments submitted to the panel of judges.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Ninth Circuit overstepped its authority by injecting an argument not made by the defendant herself. The decision ultimately reaffirms that parties — not the courts — shape issues in a court case.
The case is now to be sent back to the Ninth Circuit “for reconsideration … bearing a fair resemblance to the case shaped by parties.”