October 10, 2012
In 2009, Adrian Moncrieffe, a Jamaican permanent resident of the United States, was arrested while in possession of 1.3 grams of marijuana. Moncrieffe pleaded guilty in a Georgia court to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute under Ga. Code § 16-13-30(j)(1) and was sentenced to five years of probation. In 2010, the Department of Homeland Security successfully brought removal proceedings against Moncrieffe arguing that his conviction in state court corresponds with an aggravated felony, which made him removable under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Moncrieffe appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which upheld the lower court’s decision. After the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied review, Moncrieffe filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.
Moncrieffe argues that his conviction does not correspond with an aggravated felony because the conduct leading to his conviction instead corresponds with a federal misdemeanor. Holder argues that a state conviction for possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute constitutes an aggravated felony. This decision could impact how immigration deportation cases are decided and place stricter limits on the Attorney General’s discretion to seek removal. This decision could also impact how criminal cases are conducted (e.g. whether to go to trial, to plead guilty, to admit evidence) and how courts construct state law in accordance with federal law, specifically in immigration matters.
Whether a conviction under a provision of state law that encompasses but is not limited to the distribution of a small amount of marijuana without remuneration constitutes an aggravated felony, notwithstanding that the record of conviction does not establish that the alien was convicted of conduct that would constitute a federal felony.
Whether, when applying the categorical approach to determine whether a non-citizen should be removed, a conviction under a provision of state law that encompasses both felony and misdemeanor conduct, which lacks the specifics of the underlying conduct, should be treated as a aggravated felony rendering the non-citize