Two new statutory interpretation decisions issued today

The Supreme Court today issued two short opinions interpreting two very different statutes:

United States v. Palomar-Santiago (Immigration statutes)

and Territory of Guam v. United States (CERCLA)

Both opinions were unanimous and highly textual in their analysis. Palomar-Santiago, authored by Justice Sotomayor, relied heavily on the use of the word “and” while the Court’s opinion in Guam v. United States opinion, authored by Justice Thomas, relied heavily on the “interlocking language and structure of the relevant text” and other whole act rule type arguments. Justice Thomas’ opinion in Guam v. United States also, notably, invoked the belt-and-suspenders canon that James Brudney and Ethan Leib have written about to reject competing whole act rule (superfluity) arguments.

It’s early, but some analysis and coverage of the opinions can be found here:


Unanimous court revives Guam’s Superfund claim against U.S. Navy

The Supreme Court on Monday sided with Guam in its dispute with the federal government over the cleanup costs of toxic waste on the island. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion for a unanimous court just four weeks after oral argument in the case.

Court rejects non-citizen’s challenge to “unlawful re-entry” charge

The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously ruled against a non-U.S. citizen who was contesting his indictment for unlawful re-entry into the country. The case, United States v. Palomar-Santiago, involved Refugio Palomar-Santiago, a Mexican citizen who obtained lawful permanent residency in the United States in 1990. Eight years later, he was deported on the basis of a California conviction for driving under the influence. But after his deportation, the Supreme Court ruled in Leocal v. Ashcroft that, under the relevant federal statute, DUI convictions do not provide grounds for the removal of people like Palomar-Santiago.

The Washington Post:

Supreme Court: Guam can pursue $160M dump cleanup lawsuit

The Supreme Court says the U.S. territory of Guam can pursue a $160 million lawsuit against the federal government over the cost of cleaning up a landfill on the island. The justices on Monday unanimously overturned a lower court decision that had said Guam had waited too long to pursue the claim.

Bloomberg News:

Top Court Revives Guam’s Superfund Cost Claim Against U.S.

Guam may pursue a Superfund cost recovery claim against the federal government for a $160 million landfill cleanup as its action was timely, the U.S. Supreme Court said Monday in a significant victory for the territory. In a unanimous decision, the justices reversed a lower court and said Guam isn’t time-barred from pursuing the claim. “We are thrilled with the Court’s decision in favor of Guam today, which paves the way for the United States to pay its fair share for the cleanup of the Ordot Dump,” Latham & Watkins lawyer Greg Garre, representing Guam, said in an email.

Law & Crime:

Supreme Court Justices Again Unanimous Twice in the Same Day

The Supreme Court of the United States handed down two unanimous decisions Monday — making the total a whopping four 9-0 decisions in a week’s time.

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