Justices take up four new cases, including challenge to federal ban on encouraging illegal immigration


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The Supreme Court on Friday afternoon agreed to hear four new cases, including a First Amendment challenge to a federal law that prohibits encouraging illegal immigration. The justices issued an order list from their conference on Friday morning – the last regularly scheduled conference of the year.

In United States v. Hansen, the justices agreed to review the constitutionality of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(B)(i), a federal law that makes it a crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, to encourage or cause unauthorized immigrants to enter or reside in the United States.

Three years ago, the court agreed to take up this question in another case, United States v. Sineneng-Smith, but it did not resolve it. Instead, a unanimous court ruled that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit had improperly injected the issue into the case.

The question returns to the court in the case of Helaman Hansen, who was convicted under Section 1324(a)(1)(B)(i) for running a program that, in exchange for fees of up to $10,000, promised to help adult unauthorized immigrants become U.S. citizens through adoption. On appeal, he argued – and a panel of the 9th Circuit agreed – that the statute violates the First Amendment because it is so broad that it would also apply to speech protected by the Constitution – for example, a statement that merely encourages someone to stay in the United States. After the 9th Circuit declined to rehear the case, the federal government came to the Supreme Court, which agreed on Friday to weigh in.

The federal law at the center of Polselli v. Internal Revenue Service allows the IRS to issue a summons for financial records from recordkeepers, such as a bank or an accountant. As a general rule, the law requires the IRS to notify the person whose records are being sought, but the law also carves out an exception to the notice requirement if the summons is issued to help the IRS collect a debt. The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether that exception applies only when the delinquent taxpayer has a legal interest in the records that the IRS is seeking, or whether it applies in any case in which the IRS believes that the records might help it collect a debt.

In Lora v. United States, the justices agreed to decide whether federal criminal sentencing laws require a New York man convicted for his role in a drug-trafficking-related murder to be sentenced to consecutive, rather than concurrent, sentences.

And in Coinbase v. Bielski, the justices will decide whether a non-frivolous appeal of the denial of a motion to compel arbitration strips the district court of jurisdiction over a case, putting proceedings in the district court on hold.

More orders from Friday’s conference are expected on Monday morning at 9:30 a.m. Although Friday morning’s conference was the last regularly scheduled conference of the year, Friday’s grants may not necessarily be the last cases granted this year. For the past few years, the justices have granted more cases from their final December conference several days later, allowing them to add more cases to their merits docket without having to wait for the next conference in early January.

This article was originally published at Howe on the Court.

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