United States v. Salvador Nunez-Hernandez, No. 21-1981 (8th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Defendant believes that the statute criminalizing reentry into this country after removal violates his equal-protection rights. See 8 U.S.C. Section 1326(a), (b). He did not raise this issue before the district court. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling and denied the pending motion for judicial notice.
The court explained that even constitutional arguments can be forfeited. Forfeiture occurs when a party has an argument available but fails to assert it in time. The court wrote that failure to raise an equal-protection challenge before the district court is a classic example of forfeiture. During the six months before he pleaded guilty, Defendant filed more than a dozen motions raising all sorts of issues, but not one of them questioned the constitutionality of the illegal-reentry statute or mentioned equal protection. Had he done so, the district court would have had an opportunity to potentially correct or avoid the alleged] mistake in the first place.
The court explained that under these circumstances, Defendant’s constitutional argument receives, at most, plain-error review. Here, to succeed, Defendant’ had to show, among other things, that there was a clear or obvious error under current law. In this case, there is one district court case on his side, see Carillo-Lopez, 555 F. Supp. 3d at 1001, but at most it shows that the issue is subject to reasonable dispute. The court explained that picking one side of a reasonable dispute cannot be clearly or obviously wrong.