INS v. Pangilinan

486 U. S. 875

June 17, 1988

In 1942, Congress passed a law that made it really easy for Filipino veterans to get naturalized. The law explicitly said that you had to apply before the end of 1946 though. Furthermore, there was a period of several months from late 1945 to mid 1946 when applications were not being accepted. Several Filipinos tried to take advantage of this law decades after the fact. And the 9th Circuit ruled in their favor, ordering naturalization as a matter of equity.

The Supreme Court unanimously slapped down this nonsense (Kennedy did not participate). Scalia observed that the Constitution gave Congress the power to set all rules of naturalization. The 1942 law was brutally explicit that you had to apply before the end of 1946. This equitable power that the 9th Circuit relied upon had quite simply no authority to override the clear command of a Congressional statute. They were being blatant activists. Scalia was not moved by the fact that applications were not accepted for a period of several months, and noted that there was ample opportunity both before and after the gap to have made an application. He also briefly rejected some even more ridiculous arguments. Blackmun did not join the majority opinion, but silently concurred in judgment.

As a lower court, you know you’re acting lawlessly when even Brennan and Marshall are forced to admit it. What the 9th Circuit did in this case was shameful and disgraceful. When judges so brazenly ignore the statutory law, I dare say impeachment and removal are warranted. Judicial oaths to rule in accordance with the Constitution have to mean something.

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