O'Melveny Secures Unanimous US Supreme Court Decision in Significant Immigration Case

June 14, 2010


Piper Hall
O'Melveny & Myers LLP

Sonja Steptoe
O'Melveny & Myers LLP

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 14, 2010 – O’Melveny & Myers LLP secured a unanimous 9-0 decision in the US Supreme Court today in an important immigration law case, Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder.  This decision marks the third consecutive Supreme Court win for the O’Melveny Appellate Practice this Term


The issue before the Court concerned the circumstances in which a person with convictions for minor drug possession offenses can seek discretionary relief from removal that would enable them to remain in the country based on their family connections and other such considerations.  The particular question was whether a person convicted under state law for simple drug possession (a federal misdemeanor) has been “convicted” of an “aggravated felony” on the theory that he could have been prosecuted for recidivist simple possession (a federal felony), even though there was no charge or finding of a prior conviction in his prosecution for possession.


O’Melveny partner Sri Srinivasan argued before the Supreme Court on March 31, 2010 that the “aggravated felony” trigger should not come into play absent a court finding that a person is a recidivist, and that persons with minor drug possession convictions, but with no ruling on recidivism, should retain eligibility to seek discretionary relief from removal allowing them to remain in the United States.  The government argued that such persons are categorically ineligible to seek discretionary relief from removal.


The Court’s opinion today sides in favor of the position argued by O’Melveny.  In Justice Stevens’ written opinion, he states, “We hold that when a defendant has been convicted of a simple possession offense that has not been enhanced based on the fact of a prior conviction, he has not been ‘convicted’ under § 1229b(a)(3) of a ‘felony punishable’ as such ‘under the Controlled Substances Act,’ 18 U. S. C. § 924(c)(2).  The prosecutor in Carachuri-Rosendo’s case declined to charge him as a recidivist.  He has, therefore, not been convicted of a felony punishable under the Controlled Substances Act.”


Srinivasan led the O'Melveny team, which also included of counsel Irv Gornstein, associates Loren L. AliKhan, Seth Davis, Babak Siavoshy, and Sujeet Rao, and former associate Kathryn Tarbert.  “We are very pleased that the Court agreed with our position,” Srinivasan said.  “The Court's decision is a very important one because it will enable many immigrants with minor drug possession convictions to make the case that they should be permitted to remain in the United States because of their family ties to the country and other such considerations.”


About O’Melveny’s Appellate Practice
O’Melveny’s Appellate Practice group is one of the nation's preeminent appellate practices.  Our appellate lawyers have collectively argued more than 70 cases in the US Supreme Court, and have written briefs in hundreds more, both at the merits and certiorari stages.  The practice is headed by Walter Dellinger, former Acting Solicitor General of the United States and former head of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.  Members of the practice include several veterans of the Office of the Solicitor General, other former DOJ lawyers, and numerous former Supreme Court and federal appellate clerks.


About O’Melveny & Myers LLP

With approximately 1,000 lawyers in 14 offices worldwide, O’Melveny & Myers LLP helps industry leaders across a broad array of sectors manage the complex challenges of succeeding in the global economy.  We are a values-driven law firm, guided by the principles of excellence, leadership, and citizenship.  Our commitment to these values is reflected in our dedication to improving access to justice through pro bono work and championing initiatives that increase the diversity of the legal profession.  For more information, please visit www.omm.com.