On Tuesday, in a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that United States courts cannot enforce part of an immigration law streamlining the deportation process.
Supreme Court Judge Neil Gorsuch, whom President Donald Trump nominated, surprised people with his vote when he sided with four liberal judges.
However, his decision wasn’t rooted in liberal or conservative values — it was based on American values.Supreme Court of the United States
The overall consensus of the five judges was that the law was too vague for the courts to enact. In his ruling, Gorsuch noted they aren’t the first people to have an issue with vagueness and wrote:
Before the Revolution, the crime of treason in English law was so capaciously construed that the mere expression of disfavored opinions could invite transportation or death. The founders cited the crown’s abuse of “pretended” crimes like this as one of their reasons for revolution.
In case anyone doubted his knowledge of the founding documents, Gorsuch added, “See Declaration of Independence ¶21,” which condemns England for establishing an “arbitrary government” of “absolute rule.”Thomas Cizauskas/Flickr
The judge acknowledged that people may not be as angered by the vague laws of today as they were then.
However, the laws can still render arbitrary power and create confusion about “what the law demands” and therefore allow “prosecutors and courts to make it up.”
“The law before us today is such a law,” he wrote.
Gorsuch added that in the case of California burglary, the crime includes both “armed home intruders” and “door-to-door salesmen peddling shady products.”
He added it’s also unreasonable — under the law in question — for someone to determine the “ordinary case.”
“The law’s silence leaves judges to their intuitions and the people to their fate,” he wrote. “In my judgment, the Constitution demands more.”Travis Wise/Flickr
Gorsuch’s ruling cited multiple court cases, constitutional amendments, and Federalist Papers to back up his claim.
Ultimately, he concluded that the Constitution looks “unkindly” on vague laws in which “reasonable people cannot understand its terms and judges do not know where to begin in applying it.”
“And, in my judgment, that foundational principle dictates today’s result,” he wrote.