Supreme Court slaps down the Ninth Circuit for some particularly stupid shenanigans

Link to Opinion of the Court in United States v Sineneng-Smith.

Some things in life just don’t allow for a brief summary, but essentially the Ninth Circuit was trying to contrive a cheap route to overturn a statute they did not like.

Suffice it to say that Justice Ginsburg just slapped the **** out of the Ninth Circuit for that stupidity. The syllabus below summarizes things nicely.

The Court was unanimous, but Justice Thomas filed a concurring opinion.

Respondent Evelyn Sineneng-Smith operated an immigration consulting firm in San Jose, California. She assisted clients working without authorization in the United States to file applications for a labor certification program that once provided a path for aliens to adjust to lawful permanent resident status. Sineneng-Smith knew that her clients could not meet the long-passed statutory application-filing deadline, but she nonetheless charged each client over $6,000, netting more than $3.3 million.

Sineneng-Smith was indicted for multiple violations of 8 U. S. C. §1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) and (B)(i). Those provisions make it a federal 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,” §1324(a)(1)(A)(iv), and impose an enhanced penalty if the crime is “done for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain,” §1324(a)(1)(B)(i). In the District Court, she urged that the provisions did not cover her conduct, and if they did, they violated the Petition and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment as applied.

The District Court rejected her arguments and she was convicted, as relevant here, on two counts under §1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) and (B)(i). Sineneng-Smith essentially repeated the same arguments on appeal to the Ninth Circuit. Again she asserted a right under the First Amendment to file administrative applications on her clients’ behalf, and she argued that the statute could not constitutionally be applied to her conduct. Instead of adjudicating the case presented by the parties, however, the court named three amici and invited them to brief and argue issues framed by the panel, including a question never raised by Sineneng-Smith: Whether the statute is overbroad under the First Amendment. In accord with the amici’s arguments, the Ninth Circuit held that §1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) is unconstitutionally overbroad.

Held: The Ninth Circuit panel’s drastic departure from the principle of party presentation constituted an abuse of discretion. The Nation’s adversarial adjudication system follows the principle of party presentation. Greenlaw v. United States, 554 U. S. 237, 243. “In both civil and criminal cases, . . . we rely on the parties to frame the issues for decision and assign to courts the role of neutral arbiter of matters the parties present.” Id., at 243.

That principle forecloses the controlling role the Ninth Circuit took on in this case. No extraordinary circumstances justified the panel’s takeover of the appeal. Sineneng-Smith, represented by competent counsel, had raised a vagueness argument and First Amendment arguments homing in on her own conduct, not that of others. Electing not to address the party-presented controversy, the panel projected that §1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) might cover a wide swath of protected speech, including abstract advocacy and legal advice. It did so even though Sineneng-Smith’s counsel had presented a contrary theory of the case in her briefs and before the District Court. A court is not hidebound by counsel’s precise arguments, but the Ninth Circuit’s radical transformation of this case goes well beyond the pale. On remand, the case is to be reconsidered shorn of the overbreadth inquiry interjected by the appellate panel and bearing a fair resemblance to the case shaped by the parties. Pp. 3–9.

910 F. 3d 461, vacated and remanded.

GINSBURG, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. THOMAS, J., filed a concurring opinion.

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Here is the composition of the panel from the Ninth Circuit’s ruling and an interesting footnote:


∗ Judge Reinhardt, who was originally a member of this panel, died after this case was reargued and resubmitted for decision. Judge Hurwitz was randomly drawn to replace him. Judge Hurwitz has read the briefs, reviewed the record, and watched video recordings of the oral arguments.

This case had the mark of Reinhardt all over it. Even after his death, the tell tale signs of his involvement did not go away.

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

I honestly find this obsessive insistence on supporting illegal immigration disconcerting. I know it’s emotion driven, but what is the ultimate goal?

It can’t be just to win elections, can it?


which party argued Obamacare was a tax?

In her case, it was to rape each one for $6,000.00 a piece.

I find it so refreshing when those who’ve been placed in a position of great authority and responsibility, can rise above any and all political or any other form of divisiveness…and do their job without prejudice. I’m applauding you right now Justice Ginsburg. :clap:

I’m talking about the court.