Nancy Morawetz


Rethinking Retroactive Deportation Laws and the Due Process Clause

Nancy Morawetz

In 1996 Congress passed two laws, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which substantially increased the likelihood that permanent residents will be deported from the United States for criminal convictions. The deportation provisions of these 1996 laws are now being applied retroactively to immigrants who could not or would not have been deported under the law in place at the time the immigrants were convicted for their offenses. Noting the potential injustice of this change in the rules by which immigrants were expected to conduct their lives, Professor Morawetz explores the constitutionality of the retroactive application of these new deportation schemes. Rather than relying upon a traditional ex post facto analysis, however, Professor Morawetz examines how the retroactive application of these laws may offend the Due Process Clause as it has been interpreted and applied in a body of Supreme Court case law addressing economic legislation. The plenary power doctrine alone, Professor Morawetz argues, does not bar the courts from testing the retroactive application of these deportation provisions according to the substantive due process standard enunciated by the Court. In fact, courts may be forced to address the constitutionality of the deportation provisions due to jurisdictional restrictions contained in the 1996 laws. After analyzing the history and text of the 1996 legislation, Professor Morawetz concludes that it would be unconstitutional to apply retroactively many, if not all of these deportation provisions to immigrants whose conduct and convictions occurred prior to the implementation of Congress’s new scheme.

Convenient Facts: Nken v. Holder, the Solicitor General, and the Presentation of Internal Government Facts

Nancy Morawetz

In April 2012, facing a court order to disclose internal Justice Department e-mails, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) wrote to the United States Supreme Court to admit that it had made a factual statement to the Court three years earlier in Nken v. Holder about agency policy and practice that was not accurate. The statement had been based on e-mail communications between Justice Department and agency lawyers. In fact, the statement neither reflected the content of the e-mails nor the actual policy and practice of the relevant government agencies. The letter promised remedial measures and concluded by assuring the Court that the OSG took its responsibility of candor seriously. The underlying factual representation by the OSG in the Nken case was unusual because it attracted attention and lengthy Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation that led to the disclosure of the communications that served as the basis of the statement. But it is not at all unusual as an example of unsupported factual statements by government lawyers that are used to support legal arguments. Indeed, unsupported statements appear in OSG briefs on a wide range of issues. These statements benefit from the unusual position of the government: It has access to information not available to other litigants, and it benefits from a presumption of candor that endows its statements with a claim of self-evident authority that no private litigant could match.

The Nken case provides a unique opportunity to explore the consequences of judicial acceptance of fact statements provided by the OSG. Because of FOIA litigation, we have an opportunity to examine how the OSG gathered information as well as the role played by government counsel at the Justice Department and the interested agencies. This examination shows multiple dangers with unsupported statements about internal government facts. It also demonstrates the difficulty of relying on lawyers representing the government to seek out and offer information that will undermine the government’s litigation position. Finally, it shows that it is dangerous to rely on the party that has misled the Court to develop an appropriate remedy.

Prevention of misleading statements could be pursued through greater self-regulation, prohibition of extra-record factual statements, or through a model of disclosure and rebuttal. This Article argues that the experience in Nken reflects the grave danger in presuming that self-regulation is an adequate safeguard against erroneous statements. It further argues that despite the appeal of a rigid rule that prohibits such statements, such an approach ignores the Court’s interest in information about real world facts that are relevant to its decisions. The Article concludes by arguing that the best proactive approach is to adopt a formal system of advance notice combined with access to the basis of government representations of fact. It further argues that courts should refuse to honor statements in court decisions that are based on untested and erroneous statements of fact by the government.

Underinclusive Class Actions

Nancy Morawetz

In recent years, there has been much case law and scholarly writing on the problems associated with broadly defined classes in the class action context. Here, however, Professor Morawetz discusses the complex issues resulting from class definitions that are drawn too narrowly, rather than too broadly. Throughout the article, Professor Morawetz focuses on the plight of those individuals who are excluded from class definitions and the institutional structures that may discourage broad class definitions under particular circumstances. Professor Morawetz concludes by offering proposals that will limit the number of classes that are drawn too narrowly by imposing greater responsibility on attorneys and the courts for reviewing class definitions for narrowness.