SCOTUS Opinion: Courts May Consider Whether Deadline To Contest A Removal Order Has Been Equitably Tolled

When the Government has ordered that an immigrant be removed from the country for committing certain crimes, the Immigration and Nationality Act allows judicial review only on “constitutional claims or questions of law.” In Guerrero-Lasprilla v. Barr, two such immigrants sought appellate review of their removal orders based on whether their motions to reopen their removal proceedings were untimely or if the usual 90-day deadline had been equitably tolled. The Fifth Circuit denied relief, holding that it lacked jurisdiction to review the “factual” consideration of whether they were eligible for tolling.

The Court, in a 7-2 ruling authored by Justice Breyer, reversed, holding that the phrase “questions of law” included determining whether a set of settled facts met a legal standard—here, whether the immigrants’ actions constituted due diligence that would permit tolling. The majority also determined that other provisions of the Act also indicated that Congress understood “questions of law” to mean applying the law to established facts. Justice Thomas, joined by Justice Alito, dissented, arguing that the majority’s holding “effectively nullifies a jurisdiction-stripping statute, expanding the scope of judicial review well past the boundaries set by Congress.” A link to the opinion is here: