Monday, July 09, 2012

Flores-Lopez v. Holder (9th Cir. - July 9, 2012)

We've got to resolve cases like this faster.

It's a immigration (removal) case.  The Petitioner (Flores-Lopez) resisted a police officer, and the question is whether that's a "crime of violence" that gets him deported.

The correct answer to that question is not crystal clear.  So it takes several hearings before the immigration judge, and two trips to the BIA, before we receive the BIA's final answer.  Those administrative proceedings last from 2007 to 2008.

The present appeal to the Ninth Circuit has an 08- docket number.  And gets resolved in the summer of 2012.

That's way too long.  Especially when, as here, the Ninth Circuit decides to remand to the BIA yet again.

I looked at the docket sheet.  The only marginal complexity in the case was a motion to remand -- a motion that was denied.  That shouldn't cause an immigration appeal to take nearly four years.

The delay was not largely the panel's fault.  The oral argument was in February 2012 and the opinion was issued in July 2012.  That's not an excessively long delay to craft a published opinion.

But the briefs were completed in February 2010.  Taking two additional years until oral argument for a case that has already been pending since 2008 is too much.  There's got to -- or at least should -- be a process in which cases with low docket numbers are expedited.  Especially when, as here, they're time-sensitive matters in which delay constitutes a substantial downside itself.

It's even worse in this particular case, because the Ninth Circuit ends up doing exactly what the United States asked it to do over three years ago when it filed a motion to remand the case to the BIA.  A motion that the Appellate Administrator denied and then the Motions Panel similarly denied.

Sometimes that happens.  Occasionally there's nothing one can do about that.

But one can try one's hardest to make sure that appeals don't linger for four years.  And that, sadly, did not happen here.