Friday, September 16, 2011

365.25

Jonathan Zasloff over at Legal Planet points us to an interesting immigration case just decided by the Ninth Circuit:
This one is too good not to blog.  Strictly speaking, it’s an immigration case, but it has interesting implications for all statutes and especially environmental ones. 

Jawid Habibi is a lawful resident alien, but not someone you’d want to hang around with.  He was convicted of domestic misdemeanor battery in California, and then received a 365-day sentence pursuant to state law.  Then ICE wanted to deport him under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(F), which allows deportation for someone who commits an aggravated felony, and defines an aggravated felony as a “crime of violence . . . for which the term of imprisonment [is] at least one year.” 

So what’s the problem?  Habibi was sentenced to serve in 2000, and 2000 was a leap year.  So if he served 365 days, he didn’t serve a year!  He argued that thus, he was ineligible for deportation under the federal statute. 

The Ninth Circuit quite properly rejected that argument in Habibi v. Holder handed down just yesterday.
Zasloff goes on to examine the implications on Chevron and, more generally, textualism. Go check it out. Though not strictly environmental in nature, I find the case interesting for two personal reasons. First, my first legal job was at an immigration firm. And second, I just happened to be born on leap year!

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