Barton v. Barr, Attorney General

Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Eleventh Circuit

No. 18-725. Argued November 4, 2019--Decided April 23, 2020

When a lawful permanent resident commits certain serious crimes, the Government may initiate removal proceedings before an immigration judge. 8 U. S. C. §1229a. If the lawful permanent resident is found removable, the immigration judge may cancel removal, but only if the lawful permanent resident meets strict statutory eligibility requirements. §§1229b(a), 1229b(d)(1)(B).

Over the span of 12 years, lawful permanent resident Andre Barton was convicted of state crimes, including a firearms offense, drug offenses, and aggravated assault offenses. An Immigration Judge found him removable based on his state firearms and drug offenses. Barton applied for cancellation of removal. Among the eligibility requirements, a lawful permanent resident must have “resided in the United States continuously for 7 years after having been admitted in any status.” §1229b(a)(2). Another provision, the so-called stop-time rule, provides that a continuous period of residence “shall be deemed to end” when the lawful permanent resident commits “an offense referred to in section 1182(a)(2) . . . that renders the alien inadmissible to the United States under section 1182(a)(2).” §1229b(d)(1)(B). Because Barton’s aggravated assault offenses were committed within his first seven years of admission and were covered by §1182(a)(2), the Immigration Judge concluded that Barton was not eligible for cancellation of removal. The Board of Immigration Appeals and the Eleventh Circuit agreed.

Held: For purposes of cancellation-of-removal eligibility, a §1182(a)(2) offense committed during the initial seven years of residence does not need to be one of the offenses of removal. Pp. 6–17.

(a) The cancellation-of-removal statute functions like a traditional recidivist sentencing statute, making a noncitizen’s prior crimes relevant to eligibility for cancellation of removal. The statute’s text clarifies two points relevant here. First, cancellation of removal is precluded when, during the initial seven years of residence, the noncitizen “committed an offense referred to in section 1182(a)(2),” even if (as in Barton’s case) the conviction occurred after the seven years elapsed. Second, the offense must “rende[r] the alien inadmissible” as a result. For crimes involving moral turpitude, the relevant category here, §1182(a)(2) provides that a noncitizen is rendered “inadmissible” when he is convicted of or admits the offense. §1182(a)(2)(A)(i).

As a matter of statutory text and structure, the analysis here is straightforward. Barton’s aggravated assault offenses were crimes involving moral turpitude and therefore “referred to in section 1182(a)(2).” He committed the offenses during his initial seven years of residence and was later convicted of the offenses, thereby rendering him “inadmissible.” Barton was, therefore, ineligible for cancellation of removal. Pp. 6–10.

(b) Barton’s counterarguments are unpersuasive. First, he claims that the statute’s structure supports an “offense of removal” approach. But §1227(a)(2) offenses—not §1182(a)(2) offenses—are ordinarily the basis for removal of lawful permanent residents. Therefore, Barton’s structural argument falls apart. If he were correct, the statute presumably would specify offenses “referred to in section 1182(a)(2) or section 1227(a)(2).” By contrast, some other immigration law provisions do focus only on the offense of removal, and their statutory text and context support that limitation. See, e.g., §§1226(a), (c)(1)(A), 1252(a)(2)(C).

Second, seizing on the statutory phrase “committed an offense referred to in section 1182(a)(2) . . . that renders the alien inadmissible to the United States under section 1182(a)(2),” §1229b(d)(1)(B), Barton argues that a noncitizen is rendered “inadmissible” when actually adjudicated as inadmissible and denied admission to the United States, something that usually cannot happen to a lawfully admitted noncitizen. But the statutory text employs the term “inadmissibility” as a status that can result from, e.g., a noncitizen’s (including a lawfully admitted noncitizen’s) commission of certain offenses listed in §1182(a)(2). See, e.g., §§1182(a)(2)(A)(i), (B). And Congress has made that status relevant in several statutory contexts that apply to lawfully admitted noncitizens such as Barton. In those contexts, a noncitizen faces immigration consequences from being convicted of a §1182(a)(2) offense even though the noncitizen is lawfully admitted and is not necessarily removable solely because of that offense. See, e.g., §§1160(a)(1)(C), (a)(3)(B)(ii). Such examples pose a major hurdle for Barton’s textual argument, and Barton has no persuasive answer.

Third, Barton argues that the Government’s interpretation treats as surplusage the phrase “or removable from the United States under section 1227(a)(2) or 1227(a)(4).” But redundancies are common in statutory drafting. The Court has often recognized that sometimes the better overall reading of a statute contains some redundancy. And redundancy in one portion of a statute is not a license to rewrite or eviscerate another portion of the statute contrary to its text.

Finally, Barton argues alternatively that, even if inadmissibility is a status, and even if the offense that precludes cancellation of removal need not be one of the offenses of removal, a noncitizen must at least have been capable of being charged with a §1182(a)(2) inadmissibility offense as the basis for removal. Because the cancellation-of-removal statute is a recidivist statute, however, whether the offense that precludes cancellation of removal was charged or could have been charged as one of the offenses of removal is irrelevant. Pp. 10–17.

904 F. 3d 1294, affirmed.

Kavanaugh, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch, JJ., joined. Sotomayor, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan, JJ., joined.


ROMAG FASTENERS, INC. v. FOSSIL GROUP, INC., fka FOSSIL, INC., et al.

Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Federal Circuit

No. 18-1233. Argued January 14, 2020--Decided April 23, 2020

Romag Fasteners, Inc., and Fossil, Inc., signed an agreement to use Romag’s fasteners in Fossil’s leather goods. Romag eventually discovered that factories in China making Fossil products were using counterfeit Romag fasteners. Romag sued Fossil and certain retailers of Fossil products (collectively, Fossil) for trademark infringement pursuant to 15 U. S. C. §1125(a). Relying on Second Circuit precedent, the district court rejected Romag’s request for an award of profits, because the jury, while finding that Fossil had acted callously, rejected Romag’s accusation that Fossil had acted willfully.

Held: A plaintiff in a trademark infringement suit is not required to show that a defendant willfully infringed the plaintiff’s trademark as a precondition to a profits award. The Lanham Act provision governing remedies for trademark violations, §1117(a), makes a showing of willfulness a precondition to a profits award in a suit under §1125(c) for trademark dilution, but §1125(a) has never required such a showing. Reading words into a statute should be avoided, especially when they are included elsewhere in the very same statute. That absence seems all the more telling here, where the Act speaks often, expressly, and with considerable care about mental states. See, e.g., §§1117(b), (c), 1118. Pointing to §1117(a)’s language indicating that a violation under §1125(a) can trigger an award of the defendant’s profits “subject to the principles of equity,” Fossil argues that equity courts historically required a showing of willfulness before authorizing a profits remedy in trademark disputes. But this suggestion relies on the curious assumption that Congress intended to incorporate a willfulness requirement here obliquely while it prescribed mens rea conditions expressly else where throughout the Act. Nor is it likely that Congress meant to direct “principles of equity”—a term more naturally suggesting fundamental rules that apply more systematically across claims and practice areas—to a narrow rule about a profits remedy within trademark law. Even crediting Fossil’s assumption, all that can be said with certainty is that Pre-Lanham Act case law supports the ordinary principle that a defendant’s mental state is relevant to assigning an appropriate remedy. The place for reconciling the competing and incommensurable policy goals advanced by the parties is before policymakers. Pp. 2–7.

Vacated and remanded.

Gorsuch, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Kagan, and Kavanaugh, JJ., joined. Alito, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Breyer and Kagan, JJ., joined. Sotomayor, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.


County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund et al.

Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit

No. 18-260. Argued November 6, 2019--Decided April 23, 2020

The Clean Water Act forbids “any addition” of any pollutant from “any point source” to “navigable waters” without an appropriate permit from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). §§ 301(a), 502(12), 86 Stat. 844, 886. The Act defines “pollutant” broadly, §502(6); defines a “point source” as “ ‘any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance . . . from which pollutants are or may be discharged,’ ” including, e.g., any “ ‘container,’ ” “ ‘pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit,’ ” or “ ‘well,’ ” §502(14); and defines the term “discharge of a pollutant” as “ ‘any addition of any pollutant to navigable waters [including navigable streams, rivers, the ocean, or coastal waters] from any point source,’ ” §502(12). It then uses those terms in making “unlawful” “ ‘the discharge of any pollutant by any person’ ” without an appropriate permit. §301.

Petitioner County of Maui’s wastewater reclamation facility collects sewage from the surrounding area, partially treats it, and each day pumps around 4 million gallons of treated water into the ground through four wells. This effluent then travels about a half mile, through groundwater, to the Pacific Ocean. Respondent environmental groups brought a citizens’ Clean Water Act suit, alleging that Maui was “discharg[ing]” a “pollutant” to “navigable waters” without the required permit. The District Court found that the discharge from Maui’s wells into the nearby groundwater was “functionally one into navigable water,” 24 F. Supp. 3d 980, 998, and granted summary judgment to the environmental groups. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, stating that a permit is required when “pollutants are fairly traceable from the point source to a navigable water.” 886 F. 3d 737, 749.

Held: The statutory provisions at issue require a permit when there is a direct discharge from a point source into navigable waters or when there is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge. Pp. 4–18.

(a) Statutory context limits the reach of the phrase “from any point source” to a range of circumstances narrower than that which the Ninth Circuit’s “fairly traceable” interpretation suggests. At the same time, it is significantly broader than the total exclusion of all discharges through groundwater, as urged by Maui and by the Solicitor General as amicus curiae. Pp. 4–5.

(b) The Ninth Circuit’s “fairly traceable” limitation could allow EPA to assert permitting authority over the release of pollutants that reach navigable waters many years after their release. But Congress did not intend to provide EPA with such broad authority. First, to interpret “from” so broadly might require a permit in unexpected circumstances, such as, e.g., the 100-year migration of pollutants through 250 miles of groundwater to a river. Second, the statute’s structure indicates that, as to groundwater pollution and nonpoint source pollution, Congress left substantial responsibility and autonomy to the States and did not give EPA authority that could seriously interfere with this state responsibility. Third, the Act’s legislative history strongly supports the conclusion that the permitting provision does not extend so far. Finally, longstanding regulatory practice shows that EPA has successfully applied the permitting provision to pollution discharges from point sources that reached navigable waters through groundwater using a narrower interpretation than that of the Ninth Circuit. Pp. 5–10.

(c) Maui, the Government, and the two dissents argue for interpretations that, in light of the statute’s language, structure, and purposes, are also too extreme. Pp. 10–15.

(1) Maui and the Solicitor General argue that the statute’s permitting requirement does not apply if a pollutant, having emerged from a “point source,” must travel through any amount of groundwater before reaching navigable waters. That narrow interpretation would risk serious interference with EPA’s ability to regulate point source discharges, and Congress would not have intended to create such a large and obvious loophole in one of the Clean Water Act’s key regulatory innovations. P. 10.

(2) Reading “from” in the phrase “from any point source” together with “conveyance” in the point source definition “any . . . conveyance,” Maui argues that the meaning of “from any point source” is not about where the pollution originated, but about how it got there. Thus, Maui claims, a permit is required only if a point source ultimately delivers the pollutant to navigable waters. By contrast, if a pollutant travels through groundwater, then the groundwater is the conveyance and no permit is required. But Maui’s definition of “from” as connoting a means does not fit in context. Coupling “from” with “to” is strong evidence that Congress was referring to a destination (“navigable waters”) and an origin (“any point source”). That Maui’s reading would create a serious loophole in the permitting regime also indicates that it is unreasonable. Pp. 10–11.

(3) The Solicitor General argues that the proper interpretation of the statute is the one reflected in EPA’s recent Interpretive Statement, namely, that “all releases of pollutants to groundwater” are excluded from the scope of the permitting program, “even where pollutants are conveyed to jurisdictional surface waters via groundwater.” 84 Fed. Reg. 16810, 16811. That reading, which would open a loophole allowing easy evasion of the statutory provision’s basic purposes, is neither persuasive nor reasonable. EPA is correct that Congress did not require a permit for all discharges to groundwater, and it did authorize study and funding related to groundwater pollution. But the most that the study and funding provisions show is that Congress thought that the problem of pollution in groundwater would primarily be addressed by the States or perhaps by other federal statutes. EPA’s new interpretation is also difficult to reconcile with the statute’s reference to “any addition” of a pollutant to navigable waters; with the statute’s inclusion of “wells” in the “point source” definition, since wells would ordinarily discharge pollutants through groundwater; and with statutory provisions that allow EPA to delegate its permitting authority to a State only if the State, inter alia, provides “ ‘adequate authority’ ” to “ ‘control the disposal of pollutants into wells,’ ” §402(b). Pp. 11–13.

(4) Perhaps, as the dissents suggest, the statute’s language could be narrowed by reading the statute to refer only to the pollutant’s immediate origin, but there is no linguistic basis for this limitation. Pp. 13–15.

(d) The statute’s words reflect Congress’ basic aim to provide federal regulation of identifiable sources of pollutants entering navigable waters without undermining the States’ longstanding regulatory authority over land and groundwater. The reading of the statute that best captures Congress’ meaning, reflected in the statute’s words, structure, and purposes, is that a permit is required when there is a discharge from a point source directly into navigable waters or when there is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge. Many factors may be relevant to determining whether a particular discharge is the functional equivalent of one directly into navigable waters. Time and distance will be the most important factors in most cases, but other relevant factors may include, e.g., the nature of the material through which the pollutant travels and the extent to which the pollutant is diluted or chemically changed as it travels. Courts will provide additional guidance through decisions in individual cases. The underlying statutory objectives can also provide guidance, and EPA can provide administrative guidance. Although this interpretation does not present as clear a line as the other interpretations proffered, the EPA has applied the permitting provision to some discharges through groundwater for over 30 years, with no evidence of inadministrability or an unmanageable expansion in the statute’s scope. Pp. 15–18.

886 F. 3d 737, vacated and remanded.

Breyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Kavanaugh, JJ., joined. Kav-anaugh, J., filed a concurring opinion. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Gorsuch, J., joined. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion.