This probably wasn’t an outcome to a U.S. Supreme Court case that President Donald Trump was expecting.
In a 5-4 decision on an immigration case that reached the High Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch sided with the liberal bloc of justices, thwarting the Trump administration in a contentious battle on a controversial immigration law.
Trump nominated Gorsuch, a conservative, to the Supreme Court in the first few weeks of his presidency.
The Supreme Court was deciding on a law that would subject legal immigrants to mandatory deportation if they had committed certain crimes. The opinion of the Court found that the rule had been too vague, rendering it unconstitutional in their decision.
“Vague laws...can invite the exercise of arbitrary power...by leaving the people in the dark about what the law demands and allowing prosecutors and courts to make it up,” Gorsuch wrote in his concurring opinion.
The case itself dealt with a lawful permanent immigrant and the Trump administration’s desire to remove his residency rights due to a robbery he committed. Federal law states that an immigrant can lose legal residency privileges if they commit a “violent felony.” But Gorsuch, recognizing the ambiguity inherent with that definition, found that the law itself was faulty.
What differentiates one felony from another? And what can we consider “violent” and what is not?
“The law's silence leaves judges to their intuitions and the people to their fate,” Gorsuch wrote. “In my judgment, the Constitution demands more.”
Gorsuch’s agreement with the liberal bloc of justices is the right view of the law. The vagueness of the law’s text renders it meaningless — one judge’s definition of “violent felony” can be completely different from another judge’s views on the subject.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Trump makes a comment — on Twitter or elsewhere — about Gorsuch’s decision to join with liberals in this ruling. Will he express buyer’s remorse? It’s hard to say. Gorsuch is still a very conservative justice and will likely rule in Trump’s favor in many cases to come. Still, it wouldn’t be completely out of character to see a rant from our president on this issue.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters