The Supreme Court – May 24, 2021 | Dorsey & Whitney LLP


Today, the United States Supreme Court rendered the following two decisions:

Guam v. United States, # 20-382: The Territory of Guam and the United States are embroiled in a long-standing dispute over cleanup costs over the Ordot Landfill, which was first built and used by the Navy, then ceded to Guam which used the landfill as a rubbish dump. The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) subsequently sued Guam regarding the landfill under the Clean Water Act, which resulted in a 2004 consent decree under which Guam paid a civil penalty and agreed to close and cover the landfill. More than a decade later, Guam sued the United States under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (“CERCLA”), for cost recovery claims under section 107 (a ) and for contribution under section 113 (f). . The DC Circuit found that Guam had a CERCLA contribution claim based on the 2004 consent decree, but that the claim was time-barred. In addition, the DC Circuit has ruled that a party eligible to request a contribution under Section 113 (f) cannot assert a claim for cost recovery under Section 107 (a), and therefore concluded that Guam had no remedy available. Guam, in an effort to resuscitate its claim under Section 107 (a), turned the tide and argued that it had never owned a CERCLA contribution claim because a claim under Section 113 (f) should seek a contribution related to a liability specific to CERCLA, rather than one under a wider range of regulations involving environmental liability. Today, the Court overturned, agreeing with Guam and finding that CERCLA’s contribution requires the resolution of a specific responsibility at CERCLA. Justice Thomas delivered the unanimous opinion of the Court.

See the court decision.

United States v. Palomar-Santiago, No. 20-437: Respondent Refugio Palomar-Santiago was deported from the United States on the basis of his conviction for driving under the influence (“DUI”). After its withdrawal, the court ruled in another case that offenses like the DUI conviction are not a removable offense. When Palomar-Santiago later returned to the United States and was charged with one count of unlawful reentry in violation of 8 USC § 1326 (a), he defended himself against the charge by claiming that his previous removal order was invalid on the basis of the subsequent court precedent. Section 1326 (d) limits the circumstances in which a defendant may bring such a collateral attack on the underlying deportation order at the time when (1) all administrative remedies have been exhausted; (2) the deportation proceedings unduly deprived the individual of the possibility of judicial review; and 3) the entry of the deportation order was fundamentally unfair. The district court and the Ninth Circuit ruled for Palomar-Santiago, finding that the first two requirements of section 1326 (d) were excused because Palomar-Santiago’s felony conviction had not made it revocable. The court overturned today, ruling that each of the three legal requirements in section 1326 (d) for collateral attack on a previous deportation order is mandatory. Justice Sotomayor delivered the unanimous opinion of the Court.

See the court decision.

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