Sessions v. Dimaya

Justia Summary

Dimaya, a lawful U.S. permanent resident has two convictions for first-degree burglary under California law. An Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals held that California first-degree burglary is a “crime of violence” under 18 U.S.C. 16(b), so that Dimaya was deportable under 8 U.S.C. 1229b. While Dimaya’s appeal was pending the Supreme Court held that a similar clause in the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA)—defining “violent felony” as any felony that “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another,” was unconstitutionally “void for vagueness” (Johnson decision). Relying on Johnson, the Ninth Circuit held that section 16(b), as incorporated into the Immigration and Nationality Act, was also unconstitutionally vague. The Supreme Court affirmed. Section 16(b) has the same two features as ACCA’s residual clause—an ordinary-case requirement and an ill-defined risk threshold—combined in the same constitutionally problematic way. The combination of “indeterminacy about how to measure the risk posed by a crime [and] indeterminacy about how much risk it takes for the crime to qualify as a violent felony,” result in “more unpredictability and arbitrariness than the Due Process Clause tolerates,” Three textual discrepancies between ACCA’s residual clause and section 16(b) do not relate to those features that Johnson found to produce impermissible vagueness or otherwise makes the statutory inquiry more determinate.