Justice Neil Gorsuch sided with Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, blocking the deportation of a legal immigrant who had been convicted of a crime.
The 5-4 ruling, authored by Kagan, upheld a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found a 2015 provision of federal immigration law subjecting immigrants to deportation for being convicted of a “crime of violence” too vague, the Washington Examiner reported.
The high court heard the same case last year, but deadlocked 4-4, due to the absence on the bench created by the death of Antonin Scalia.
The case centered on legal resident James Garcia Dimaya, who came to the U.S. from the Philippines in 1992 at the age of 13, according to KTLA.
In 2007 and 2009, he pleaded no contest to charges of residential burglary.
In 2010, the Obama administration brought removal proceedings against him, and an immigration court judge determined Dimaya was subject to removal because of his criminal convictions.
The immigration court found the instances of burglary were “aggravated” felonies and therefore subject to the deportation law.
Lawyers for Dimaya appealed the decision to federal court in California, relying in part on an 8-1 majority opinion written by Scalia in 2015 that found a provision in the Armed Career Criminal Act unconstitutionally vague.
The 9th Circuit sided with the immigrant, determining the “crime of violence” language from the Immigration and Nationality Act similarly vague.
The Trump administration defended the law before the Supreme Court in oral arguments last fall, as the Obama administration had done before it.
Justices dissenting in Tuesday’s 5-4 ruling included Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.
The four joined in a dissenting opinion written by Roberts, contending the INA language is not vague, but calls for a “commonsense inquiry” by the immigration court into the “risk” created by the immigrant being in the country, based on the crime(s) he or she has committed.
In the past, Gorusch has consistently sided with the conservatives. Reuters reported he was one of three justices last June who would have let Trump’s second travel ban go into full effect.
He voted with the majority (6-3) in allowing a limited version to do so.
Slate reported last week that Gorsuch votes with Thomas 88 percent of the time, while Scalia and Thomas voted together with 91 percent frequency.
In a speech to the Federalist Society in November, Gorsuch touted his Scalia-like approach to the law.
Tonight,” he said to sustained applause, “I can report, a person can be both a committed originalist and textualist and be confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
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