A Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday hands the Trump administration a defeat after the justices rule that a law subjecting immigrants to deportation for crimes of violence is unconstitutionally vague.
The case in question was carried over from the high court’s 2016 term, when the justices presumably deadlocked 4-4 following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. President Trump’s nominee to the high court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, joined the liberal majority’s 5-4 opinion in deciding that the law passed by Congress failed to define what would qualify as a violent crime.
The ruling was a victory for James Garcia Dimaya, whose two burglary convictions were considered violent crimes under the statute — despite not having involved violence. It was a defeat for the Justice Department, which had defended the law under both the Trump and Obama administrations.
The court’s ruling followed a similar one back in 2015, when Justice Scalia declared a key section of criminal law targeting armed violence unconstitutionally vague. The clause allowed past convictions to be treated as violent felonies if they involved "conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another."