Patel v. Garland, 20-979

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBARRETT, JUSTICE
Docket Number20-979
Decision Date16 May 2022

596 U.S. ___


No. 20-979

United States Supreme Court

May 16, 2022

Argued December 6, 2021


In 2007, Pankajkumar Patel, who had entered the United States illegally with his wife Jyotsnaben in the 1990s, applied to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for discretionary adjustment of status under 8 U.S.C. §1255, which would have made Patel and his wife lawful permanent residents. Because USCIS was aware that Patel had previously checked a box on a Georgia driver's license application falsely stating that he was a United States citizen, it denied Patel's application for failure to satisfy the threshold requirement that the noncitizen be statutorily admissible for permanent residence. §1255(i)(2)(A); see also §1182(a)(6)(C)(ii)(I) (rendering inadmissible a noncitizen "who falsely represents . . . himself or herself to be a citizen of the United States for any purpose or benefit under" state or federal law).

Years later, the Government initiated removal proceedings against Patel and his wife due to their illegal entry. Patel sought relief from removal by renewing his adjustment of status request. Patel argued before an Immigration Judge that he had mistakenly checked the "citizen" box on the state application and thus lacked the subjective intent necessary to violate the federal statute. The Immigration Judge disagreed, denied Patel's application for adjustment of status, and ordered that Patel and his wife be removed from the country. The Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed Patel's appeal.

Patel petitioned the Eleventh Circuit for review, where a panel of that court held that it lacked jurisdiction to consider his claim. Federal law prohibits judicial review of "any judgment regarding the granting of relief under §1255. §1252(a)(2)(B)©. But see §1252(a)(2)(D) (exception where the judgment concerns "constitutional claims" or "questions of law"). The panel reasoned that the factual


determinations of which Patel sought review-whether he had testified credibly and whether he had subjectively intended to misrepresent himself as a citizen-each qualified as an unreviewable judgment. On rehearing, the en banc court agreed with the panel. This Court granted certiorari to resolve a Circuit conflict as to the scope of §1252(a)(2)(B)(i).


Federal courts lack jurisdiction to review facts found as part of discretionary-relief proceedings under §1255 and the other provisions enumerated in § 1252(a)(2)(B)® Pp. 6-17
(a) This case largely turns on the scope of the word "judgment" as used in §1252(a)(2)(B)®. In support of the judgment below, Court-appointed amicus defines it as any authoritative decision-encompassing any and all decisions relating to the granting or denying of discretionary relief. By contrast, the Government argues that it refers exclusively to a decision requiring the use of discretion, which the factual findings in this case are not. Patel agrees that "judgment" implies an exercise of discretion but interprets the qualifying phrase "regarding the granting of relief as focusing the jurisdictional bar on only the Immigration Judge's ultimate decision whether to grant relief Everything else, he says, is reviewable. Pp. 6-14
(1) Only amicus' definition fits the text and context of §1252(a)(2)(B)(i)." [T]he word 'any' has an expansive meaning." Babb v. Wilkie, 589 U.S. ___, ___, n. 2 (some internal quotation marks omitted). As applied here, "any" means a judgment "'of whatever kind'" under §1255 and the other enumerated provisions. United States v. Gonzales, 520 U.S. 1, 5. The word "regarding" has a similarly "broadening effect." Lamar, Archer & Cofrin, LLP v. Appling, 584 U.S.___, ___. Thus, §1252(a)(2)(B)® encompasses not just "the granting of relief' but also any judgment relating to the granting of relief. Amicus' reading is reinforced by Congress' later addition of §1252(a)(2)(D), which preserves review of legal and constitutional questions but makes no mention of preserving review of questions of fact. Moreover, this Court has already relied on subparagraph (D) to all but settle that judicial review of factfinding is unavailable. See Guerrero-Lasprilla v. Barr, 589 U.S.___; Nasrallah v. Barr, 590 U.S. ___(2020). Pp. 8-10.
(2) The Government's and Patel's interpretations read like elaborate efforts to avoid the text's most natural meaning. The Government cites dictionary definitions such as "the mental or intellectual process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing" as indicating that "judgment" refers exclusively to a discretionary decision, which it describes as one that is "subjective or evaluative." Brief for Respondent 12. The factual findings in this case, it says, do not fit that description. The Government is wrong about both text and context. A "judgment" does not necessarily involve discretion, nor does


context indicate that only discretionary judgments are covered by §1252(a)(2)(B)(i). Rather than delineating a special category of discretionary determinations, the cited definitions-none of which expressly references discretion-simply describe the decisionmaking process, which might involve a matter that the Government treats as "subjective" or one that it deems "objective." Using the word "judgment" to describe the fact determinations at issue in this case is perfectly natural. See, e.g., Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., 574 U.S. 318, 327. To succeed, the Government must show that in context, the kind of judgment to which §1252(a)(2)(B)(i) refers is discretionary. But the text of that provision applies to "any judgment." Had Congress intended to limit the jurisdictional bar to "discretionary judgments," it could easily have used that language, as it did elsewhere in the immigration code. The Government's reliance on Kucana v. Holder, 558 U.S. 233, is inapposite. That case said or implied nothing about review of nondiscretionary decisions. Pp. 10-13.
(3) Neither does Patel's interpretation square with the text or context of §1252(a)(2)(B)(i). He claims that the phrase "any judgment regarding the granting of relief refers only to the ultimate grant or denial of relief, leaving all eligibility determinations reviewable. Patel's interpretation reads "regarding" out of the statute entirely. Patel also fails to explain why subparagraph (B)'s bar should be read differently from subparagraph (C)'s prohibition on reviewing final orders of removal for certain criminal offenses. Given the similarities of those two provisions-each precludes judicial review in the same way and bears the same relationship to subparagraph (D)-there is no reason to think that subparagraph (B) would allow a court to review the factual underpinnings of a decision when subparagraph (C) prohibits just that. Pp. 13-14.
(b) Patel and the Government object that this Court's interpretation would arbitrarily prohibit review of some factual determinations made in the discretionary-relief context that would be reviewable if made elsewhere in removal proceedings. But the distinction simply reflects Congress' choice to provide reduced procedural protection for discretionary relief. And while this Court does not decide what effect, if any, its decision has on review of discretionary-relief determinations made outside of removal proceedings, the Court rejects Patel's and the Government's contention that the risk of foreclosing such review should change its interpretation here. As the Court has emphasized many times before, policy concerns cannot trump the best interpretation of the statutory text. Pp. 15-17.
(c) As a last resort, Patel and the Government argue that the statute is ambiguous enough to trigger the presumption that Congress did not intend to foreclose judicial review. Here, however, the text and context


of §1252(a)(2)(B)(i) clearly indicate that judicial review of fact determinations is precluded in the discretionary-relief context, and the Court has no reason to resort to the presumption of reviewability. P. 17.

971 F.3d 1258, affirmed.

BARRETT, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and Thomas, Alito, and Kavanaugh, JJ., joined. Gorsuch, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined.




Congress has comprehensively detailed the rules by which noncitizens may enter and live in the United States. When noncitizens violate those rules, Congress has provided procedures for their removal. At the same time, there is room for mercy: Congress has given the Attorney General power to grant relief from removal in certain circumstances.

Federal courts have a very limited role to play in this process. With an exception for legal and constitutional questions, Congress has barred judicial review of the Attorney General's decisions denying discretionary relief from removal. We must decide how far this bar extends-specifically, whether it precludes judicial review of factual findings that underlie a denial of relief. It does.



A noncitizen who enters the United States illegally or who otherwise violates its laws may be removed from the country. 8 U.S.C. §§1182, 1227, 1229a. Removal proceedings are conducted by immigration judges in the United


States Department of Justice who exercise the authority of the Attorney General. §1229a(a)(1); 8 CFR §§1240.1(a)(1), 1245.2(a)(1)(i) (2021). If an immigration judge decides that a noncitizen is removable, the judge is authorized to order the removal of the noncitizen from the United States. 8 U.S.C. §1229a(c)(5).

Being found removable is not always the end of...

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