U.S. Supreme Court

Kavanaugh decision sides with immigrant seeking factual review of denied torture claim

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Brett Kavanaugh

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

In a 7-2 decision Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with a lawful permanent resident of the United States who sought review of his claim that he would be tortured if he was deported to his home country of Lebanon.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote the majority opinion in the case of Nidal Khalid Nasrallah, who was ordered to be deported because of his conviction for receiving stolen property. According to Courthouse News Service, Nasrallah was convicted for selling stolen cigarettes.

Nasrallah said he was a member of the Druze religion, and he had been tortured by Hezbollah soldiers before he came to the United States in 2006 at age 17. He said he had broken his back in Lebanon after jumping from a cliff to avoid the Hezbollah soldiers, according to Courthouse News Service and the cert petition.

Nasrallah said he would be tortured again if he returned, and he was entitled to relief under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The government had countered that Nasrallah wasn’t tortured, and he willingly jumped off the cliff. The Board of Immigration Appeals sided with the government, finding that shouting and firing of guns by Hezbollah militants didn’t amount to torture.

Kavanaugh held that a federal appeals court could review factual legal challenges to a removal order in Nasrallah’s case, but it should do so deferentially. Kavanaugh’s decision was based on interpretation of federal statutes.

The government had contended that appeals courts can review constitutional and legal challenges when torture claims are denied but not factual claims.

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented in an opinion joined by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

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