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Chuen Piu Kwong v. Holder

The Ninth Circuit overruled its previous precedent in United States v. Navidad-Marcos, 367 F.3d 903 (9th Cir. 2004), and held that a California abstract of judgment may be used to establish whether a respondent in removal proceedings has been convicted of first or second degree burglary. It relied on the en banc decision in United States v. Snellenberger, 548 F.3d 699 (9th Cir. 2008), which had held that a California minute order could be used for the same purpose. The court found that an abstract of judgment are contemporaneously prepared judicial record of the plea and sentence based on language from a California Supreme Court case. As a contemporaneous record that the defendant could review and challenge, it held it was within the reviewable record of conviction.

The abstract may be contemporaneously prepared in some cases, but often it is prepared months after the plea in cases where sentencing does not occur immediately. Nor is it really a record of the basis for the plea, but rather is primarily a sentencing document. It therefore is not comparable to a minute order from a change of plea hearing.

The more surprising holding of Kwong, however, was that California first degree burglary is a crime of violence under 18 USC 16(b) as a felony that involves a substantial risk that violent physical force will be used against the person or property of another in committing it. Although prior Ninth Circuit precedent held the same, I say surprising because the recent en banc decision in Aguila Montes de Oca v. Holder recognized that California burglary does not necessarily require a trespassory entry. It recognized that it would include a fireman called to a burning building who enters to fight the fire and also to misappropriate valuables inside or a servant who enters with his master's home with the intent to steal the silver. These types entries are not trespassory and thus are not the types of situations where there is no substantial risk that the offender will use violent physical force to commit the crime.

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