May 21, 2012 United States Supreme Court opinions

Holder v Martinez Gutierrez

Martinez Gutierrez entered the country illegally at age 5. His father obtained legal residence status as did Martinez Gutierrez several years later. He was convicted of a removable offence. The Board of Immigration Appeals ordered him removed rejecting his argument that his father’s time as a legal resident should be imputed to him for purposes of discretionary withholding of removal. The 9th Circuit reversed holding imputation must be done to effectuate the family unification purposes of the immigration statute. The Court unanimously reversed holding the language of the statute was ambiguous and the Board’s interpretation was reasonable. The Court rejected claims of inconsistent positions on when to impute parental conditions to children and found the Board did not feel itself bound by Congress in making its interpretation.

Taniguchi v Kan Pacific Saipan, Ltd.

Taniguchi sued Kan Pacific for injuries allegedly caused by a collapsed deck. Kan Pacific prevailed on summary judgment and submitted a bill of costs that included document translation services. The trial court awarded the translation services reasoning the statute allowing a taxation of costs for interpreters included translation services. The 9th Circuit affirmed. Resolving a circuit split, the Court, 6-3, reversed. It noted interpreter was defined in 1978 dictionaries as one who translates oral statements and this was consistent with pre-1978 legal dictionaries. While acknowledging certain 1978 read dictionaries defined the term as including written translation, the majority concluded this did not demonstrate the ordinary understanding of the term. It also noted the statutory context focused on simultaneous translation of oral testimony. It noted the professional literature distinguished between translators who work with written material and interpreters who translate oral statements. It finally noted the policy of limiting taxable costs and that limiting interpretation cost claims to oral testimony advanced that policy. The dissent argued including translation of documents in the allowable costs in allowed by the language, consistent with practice before and after the 1978 act and that certain acts of translation are interpretation for statutory purposes and the line is hard to draw between allowable and not allowable.

Astrue v Capato

Capato had children from her deceased husband’s preserved sperm. She filed a claim for survivor’s benefits with the Social Security Administration. Her claim was denied on the basis that state intestacy law did not recognize the children as heirs. The district court affirmed this decision, but, the 3rd Circuit reversed holding the Social Security Act defined child as biological children of an insured. The Court, resolving a circuit split, unanimously reversed. It held the statute creating the claim program applies the intestacy standard throughout the provisions. Thus, biological children must be heirs under state law or meet alternative criteria. The court also noted that even if this reading was not the only reading, it is reasonable and deference to the Administration is called for.

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