Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sawyers v. Holder, 399 F.Appx. 313 (2010); Reversed: 132 S.Ct. 7 (2012)

Because the volume of immigration cases in the 9th Circuit is so heavy, and most cases fact intensive, we do not review them. But a recent case entitled Sawyers v. Holder illustrates the damage to the court system by the 9th Circuit deplorable record of reversals.  People forget that 9th Circuit cases reversed by the Supreme Court occur after the conclusion of years of litigation.  In the interim, all cases relying on 9th Circuit opinions as precedent continue to rely on the original decision.  When the Supreme Court reverses a 9th Circuit case years later, all its erroneously decided cases remain unaffected (although non citeable) on the books and a party escapes responsibility.

Sawyers illustrates this.  In 2005 the 9th Circuit sanctioned imputing the residence of the mother to the child for purposes of challenging deportation; Cuevas-Gaspar v. Gonzales, 430 F.3d 1013 (9th Cir. 2005).  In 2009 the 9th Circuit cited Cuevas-Gaspar as precedent in applying its rule to Mercado-Zazueta v. Holder, 580 F.3d 1102 (9th Cir. 2009).  And in Sawyers v. Holder, 399 F.Appx. 313 (2010) the 9th Circuit cited  these two cases again and approved the doctrine of imputing residence of the mother to the child in the context of a deportation proceeding.

In 2012  the Supreme Court decided  Holder v. Martinez Guttierrez,132 S.Ct. 71 (2012)  reversing the 9th Circuit decision and its holding in Sawyers v. Holder. During the 7 year interim between 2005 and 2012 the BIA in the 9th Circuit was governed by three cases wrongfully decided. The 9th Circuit erroneous "imputation" rule applied to anyone within that category for 7 years.  On remand from the Supreme Court in Sawyers v. Holder the 9th Circuit admitted its two earlier cases were also wrongly decided; Sawyers v. Holder, 2012 WL2507513 (C.A. 9).

Extrapolate that rationale to Supreme Court death penalty cases reversing the 9th Circuit. While a 9th Circuit case and its decision slowly winds its way through the court system, the court cites it as precedent to other cases in later opinions. /Assume the Supreme Court ultimately reverses the original decision in a later case that, in effect, reverses a trail of 9th Circuit cases. All these cases were wrongly decided but unreviewable now.  In the current term of the Supreme Court the Justices reversed three death penalty cases wrongly decided by the 9th Circuit.  Aside from all the delay incurred, these cases were precedent for other cases wrongly decided by the 9th Circuit.