Monday, December 15, 2014

Abdisalan v. Holder (9th Cir. - Dec. 15, 2014)

Sometimes circuit precedent matters.

Judge Tallman writes a panel opinion in an immigration case that concludes that, under circuit precedent, Ms. Abdisalan's appeal is untimely.  Judge Watford thinks that this decision is unjust, and dissents, arguing that the relevant circuit precedent is distinguishable and was undercut by subsequent circuit precedent.

The case gets taken en banc.  Now no one's bound by circuit precedent.

What's the resulting vote?  11-0.  Including Judge Tallman, who's on the en banc panel.  The bad circuit precedent is overruled, and a new -- fairer-- procedural regime is imposed.

To tell the whole truth, it might not just be circuit precedent that's at work here.  The old regime (i.e., the one that's overruled today) was created by a panel opinion in 2011.  Written by . . . Judge Tallman.  (Joined by Judges Fernandez and Rymer.)

Judge Tallman and the rest of the panel surely had a choice back then.  But now, Judge Tallman (1) sees the error of his ways, and/or (2) sees the handwriting on the wall.  So everyone votes to overrule.

That's how law sometimes evolves, my friends.