Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Nadarajah v. Gonzales (9th Cir. - March 17, 2006)

I've got to be fair.

In the past, I've insulted various Ninth Circuit judges -- even ones I respect -- for taking too much time to issue an opinion, and for not acting expeditiously in light of the nature of the case. So if I do that, I am both happy and obliged to compliment someone when they deliberately decide a case quickly given the underlying circumstances presented by the appeal.

Which is precisely what Judge Thomas -- without fanfare or self-laudatory comments -- does here. When he was 17, Ahilan Nadarajah was repeatedly tortured in Sri Lanka. He promptly fled to the United States, and was detained upon his arrival here in October 2001. He moved for asylum, and tried to obtain his release from detention, but the government repeatedly opposed his requests and continuously attempted to deport him.

Nadarajah's case comes to the Ninth Circuit on a petition for habeas corpus. Judge Thomas cogently -- and entirely accurately -- explains the basic underlying facts of Nadarajah's case as follows: "Twice, the government’s arguments against the grant of immigration relief have been rejected and Nadarajah has been awarded relief by an immigration judge. This decision was affirmed by the Board of Immigration Appeals. Yet, the government continues to detain Nadarajah, who has now been imprisoned for almost five years despite having prevailed at every administrative level of review and who has never been charged with any crime."

Needless to say, Judge Thomas not only grants the habeas petition, but also orders Nadarajah's immediate release. Less obviously, Judge Thomas also not only issues his opinion a mere 10 days after oral argument, but also orders its immediate issuance by the Clerk -- which is why the opinion is in the funky format rather than the more polished font in which Ninth Circuit slips are generally published.

Good job, Judge Thomas. Your opinion makes me proud of the Ninth Circuit (and you) today.