Esquivel-Quintana v. Lynch

Brief of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioner.

Brief filed: 12/22/2016


Esquivel-Quintana v. Lynch

United States Supreme Court; Case No. 16-54

Prior Decision

Decision below  810 F.3d 1019 (6th Cir. Jan. 15, 2016).


BIA interpretations of "aggravated felony" do not qualify for Chevrondeference. Section 1101 (a)(43) has extensive criminal applications, with substantial penal consequences. Because Section 1101 (a)(43) has extensive criminal consequences, the Rule of Lenity rather than Chevron must be applied to resolve statutory ambiguities.  This Court's precedent dictates that the rule of lenity applies, requiring "aggravated felony" to be construed narrowly and in favor of petitioner. Applying the rule of lenity rather than Chevron to statutes with both civil and criminal applications fulfills the rule's purposes and protects core constitutional values. Babbitt's footnote does not command a contrary result. Even if the Chevron framework applies, deference to the BIA's interpretation is not warranted here. The BIA does not administer criminal laws and lacks relevant criminal law expertise. Affording Chevron deference to the BIA's interpretation would create significant practical difficulties for criminal defense lawyers and their clients.

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Benjamin J. Horwich, Joshua Patashnik, and David J. Feder, Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, San Francisco, CA; David Markus, Miami, FL.