In an era of deep political division, a unanimous Supreme Court decision is exceedingly rare — especially when it comes to the hot-button issue of immigration.
That was precisely the case, however, in an opinion penned by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who rejected a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that questioned the constitutionality of one immigration law.
“An abuse of discretion”
Though the unanimous ruling found the appeals court did not provide a sufficiently compelling argument, it did not render a decision on the underlying issue.
The case stems from a complaint by a California immigration consultant found to be in violation of anti-harboring laws based on activities that encouraged undocumented immigrants to stay in the country illegally.
While the appeals court agreed that the statute was overly broad and encroached on the First Amendment right to free speech, the Supreme Court determined the third-party arguments leading to that decision were insufficient.
As Ginsburg explained, the “appeals panel departed so drastically from the principle of party presentation as to constitute an abuse of discretion.”
“Well beyond the pale”
She went on to state 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.”
In a separate immigration-related decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week against a government petition that would protect a presidential order issued last year preventing immigrants from entering the U.S. without an “approved” form of health insurance.
As for the Supreme Court’s recent decision, it appears the appeals process will have another go at the issue.
“A fair resemblance to the case”
The written opinion indicated that the case would be sent back down to the Ninth Circuit “for reconsideration … bearing a fair resemblance to the case shaped by the parties.”
Considering the fact that nine ideologically diverse justices agreed on this issue is a testament to how inadequate the appeals court decision truly was.
If the case eventually appears before the nation’s highest court again, it might actually result in a decision on the real issue at hand.