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The U.S. Supreme Court, by a 7-2 vote, rejected government attempts to limit judicial review over deportation cases involving the Torture Convention. U.S. law forbids deporting someone to a situation where they will face torture, but the steady erosion of fairness in the immigration courts often makes a mockery of the protections granted by law. Judicial review allows courts to review denial orders, and to reverse decisions that are not supported by the evidence.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision allows courts to reverse immigration court decisions that wrongly deny torture protection,” said NIJC Director of Appellate Litigation Chuck Roth. “It confirms the argument we have been advancing for many years. This is an important step toward accountability for immigration court decisions, though it is only a small step toward a return to decency in our immigration system.”

The National Immigrant Justice Center, together with an alliance of other legal service providers, filed an amicus brief in the case, explaining the need for judicial review. Overworked immigration judges must often decide to grant or deny Torture Convention protections after inadequate administrative hearings. Many noncitizens appear without an attorney; and some are in immigration detention, making it even harder to obtain evidence to support their applications.

The Supreme Court’s decision was a technical and statutory decision, and found that even though Torture Convention orders are reviewed together with removal orders, they are technically distinct.

Aaron Karl Block and Cassandra Kerkhoff Johnson, of Alston & Bird, were co-counsel with NIJC on the amicus brief.