Supreme Court of the United States Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, appointed by Trump in 2017, recently casted the deciding vote in a Supreme Court ruling that struck down a provision in a federal immigration law.
Justice Gorsuch, a self-proclaimed originalist, voted with his liberal colleagues this month on the decision in Sessions v. Dimaya. The clause challenged in 8 U.S.C. § 16 would require the deportation of a non-citizen who is convicted of a “crime of violence,” which includes a crime that “by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force … may be used in the course of committing the offense.”
The Supreme Court ruled that this clause is too vague to be enforced. Justice Elena Kagan wrote the majority opinion for the Court, reasoning that the clause produced more “unpredictability and arbitrariness” than what Due Process tolerates. The clause “invites arbitrary enforcement, and fails to provide fair notice.” Justice Gorsuch mostly concurred, explaining that any law that is so vague that not even judges can apply it must be void.
Although the 5-4 decision has been regarded as a victory for immigration advocates, it is most plausible that Justice Gorsuch voted this way because of his skepticism of courts’ deference to administrative agencies.