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Morel v. I.N.S.

U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

May 11, 1998


Before: Sloviter, Greenberg and Roth, Circuit Judges

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Roth, Circuit Judge:

On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (INS No. A42-267-305)

Argued March 25, 1996 Reargued April 3, 1997

Opinion filed May 11, 1998


In this case, we reconsider a petition for review which was first filed on May 12, 1995, by Eleazar Jose Morel, a native and citizen of the Dominican Republic. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) asks us to set aside our original opinion in this case in which we granted Morel's petition challenging the Board of Immigration Appeals' (BIA) construction of § 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. § 1182(c). See Morel v. INS, 90 F.3d 833 (3d Cir. 1996). The INS now argues that the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), Pub. L. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (1996), applies here to foreclose our ability to entertain this petition and grant the relief Morel requests. Because we agree, we now vacate our original opinion. Consequently, the decision of the BIA affirming the immigration Judge's denial of the applicability of § 212(c) to Morel from which appeal was taken to this Court, is final.

Although the limited factual record has already been set out in our previous opinion, we nonetheless provide a detailed procedural history because of the significance of the timing of the events leading up to this rehearing. These events were set in motion when Morel was arrested in New Jersey on August 24, 1991, and charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance and possession of a controlled dangerous substance within 1000 feet of a school. On January 6, 1993, Morel was sentenced to four years in a New Jersey correctional facility, after pleading guilty to the first possession charge.*fn1

While serving his sentence, Morel was served with an Order to Show Cause and Notice of Hearing by the INS. Upon completion of his sentence and his transfer to an INS detention facility in Oakdale, Louisiana, Morel was provided a hearing before an immigration Judge. At the hearing held on January 17, 1994, Morel conceded that he had been convicted of a deportable offense, but sought discretionary relief pursuant to INA § 212(c). The immigration Judge denied Morel's request, finding that he had accumulated insufficient residency to be eligible for discretionary relief and ordered him deported to the Dominican Republic. On April 10, 1995, the BIA affirmed the order and dismissed Morel's appeal.

On May 12, 1995, Morel filed a petition for review in this Court. We ordered argument of the case on March 25, 1996. On July 26, 1996, a majority of this panel issued an opinion in which we concluded that the INS had erred in construing INA § 212(c) to impose a requirement of seven consecutive years domicile after he was admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident and in interpreting § 212(c) not to allow for the crediting of Morel's accumulated residency for the time that his mother proceeded him in the United States.*fn2 Morel, 90 F.3d at 834.

We remanded Morel's case to the BIA for further proceedings. However, prior to any further action being taken before the agency, the INS submitted a Petition for Panel Rehearing in which the agency contended that AEDPA's passage on April 24, 1996, had divested us of jurisdiction to entertain Morel's petition for review. We ordered additional briefing and granted reargument to address this serious jurisdictional concern.

We agree that AEDPA divests this Court of jurisdiction.*fn3 In the case of aliens convicted of certain criminal offenses, AEDPA § 440(a) removes from us jurisdiction to review a claim of legal error in deportation proceedings.*fn4 Morel does not dispute that he was convicted of a deportable criminal offense covered in INA § 241(a)(2)(B)(I), 8 U.S.C. § 1251(a)(2)(B)(I). Thus, we conclude that AEDPA § 440(a) denies Morel the right to obtain review by an Article III court.*fn5 The subsequent adoption by Congress of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), Div. C of Pub. L. 104-208, 110 Stat. 3009 (1996) on September 30, 1996, further restructuring the deportation process, does not affect the outcome of this case.

Furthermore, although Morel asserts to the contrary, we do not see any deprivation of his rights which is of constitutional proportion. The INS concedes that § 440(a) does not preclude Article III court review of claims of "substantial Constitutional error." Resp. Supp. Br. at 20. Morel's claim here is not such a claim -- he has sought review of a question of law as we set out in our prior opinion, see Morel v. INS, 90 F.3d 833 (3d Cir. 1996), that is, whether in construing § 212(c)'s requirement of seven consecutive years domicile after one is admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident, one can get credit for the accumulated residency of one's parent who preceeded one in the United States. Additionally, relevant Supreme Court authority does not mandate judicial review by an Article III court of questions of law underlying legislatively-created public rights such as immigration. See Crowell v. Benson, 52 S.Ct. 285 (1932) (drawing a distinction between public and private rights and listing immigration as an exemplar of a public right); see also Northern Pipeline Construction Co. v. Marathon Pipe Line Co., 102 S.Ct. 2858 (1982); Commodity Futures Trading Commission v. Schor, 106 S. Ct. 3245 (1986).

To conclude, because Congress has divested us of jurisdiction to review matters falling within the purview of AEDPA § 440(a), we will vacate our prior opinion in this matter, see Morel v. INS, 90 F.3d 833 (3d Cir. 1996), and we will deny the petition for review.

A True Copy: Teste:

Clerk of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

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