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Ninth Circuit Endorses Calendar Lies in the Interest of Justice

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 22, 2011 9:50 AM

Rent lied to us.

All the singing and dancing about five-hundred-twenty-five-thousand-six-hundred-minutes? Nonsense.

In a case to file under "lies-the-justice-system-perpetuates," the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the only way to measure a year for immigration removal procedures is with the inaccurate 365-day calendar.

So how many days are really in a year?

According to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, the astronomically correct answer is approximately 365.24237 days. Since it would be impractical for our calendars to add 0.24237 days at the end of each year, we make up the difference by adding an extra day, February 29, every fourth year, known as "leap year."

This would solve the problem if a natural year was actually 365.25 days, but it's not. Adding a full day every four years ends up overcompensating.

To correct this, the Gregorian calendar approximates the natural year at 365.2425 days. As a result, the powers-that-be omit leap year every 100 years, in years ending in "00," except once every 400 years. Therefore, while the years 1600 and 2000 were leap years; the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, scoffs at science, finding that it does not answer the question of how long one year is for immigration removal.

For example, Jawid Habibi, a lawful permanent resident, received a 365-day suspended sentence for battery in 1999, which he served through the year 2000, a leap year. The Department of Homeland Security subsequently claimed that the conviction made Habibi removable as an alien convicted of a domestic violence crime.

Habibi requested cancellation of immigration removal, but the immigration judge found that Habibi was not eligible for cancellation because his conviction constituted an "aggravated felony." Habibi then argued that, because an "aggravated felony" term of imprisonment is at least one year," and because his 365-day sentence was completed during a 366-day leap year, his conviction did not qualify as an "aggravated felony."

The immigration judge, clearly unimpressed by this novel defense, rejected the argument, noting that "it is well settled that ... 365 days ... would be the equivalent of a legal year." The Board of Immigration Appeals and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals were likewise unimpressed, and affirmed Habibi's removal.

The problem is not an unwavering commitment to measuring a year in daylights, sunsets, midnights, and coffee, (which would actually support Habibi's argument); instead, the court noted that adopting Habibi's fluctuating measure of a year would lead to unjust and absurd results.

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