Daily Archives: April 25, 2013

Court orders legal representation for immigrants in deportation proceedings

I first came across this decision when I was listening to NPR.  In this case, which is a first of its kind, a federal judge ordered that states have to provide legal representation for immigrants with mental disabilities – when these immigrants are being detained and facing deportation.

This case is really surprising because immigrants generally do not have a right to an attorney.  The Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright, 371 US 335 (1963), decided that the right to counsel is a fundamental right in criminal cases.  In INS v. Lopez-Mendoza, 468 US 1032 (1984), the Supreme Court reaffirmed that a deportation case is not a criminal case, but an administrative one.

Since deportation proceedings are not a criminal crime, there is no right to a lawyer.  The detainees not guaranteed counsel had presumably covered children, the mentally disabled, victims of sex trafficking, refugees, torture survivors and legal permanent residents.

Federal Judge Dolly M. Fee ordered immigration courts in three states to provide legal representation for immigrants with mental disabilities who are in detention and facing deportation, if they cannot represent themselves.  The immigrant in this case had severe mental retardation that prevented him from arguing for himself in court or even understanding his situation.

The NY Times reports that subsequently, “federal immigration officials issued a new policy that would expand the California ruling nationwide, making government-paid legal representation available to people with mental disabilities in courts in every state.”

Edited: To add other Supreme Court cases.

via Legal Aid Ordered for Mentally Disabled Immigrants – NYTimes.com.

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Filed under attorneys, civil rights, courts, District Court, immigration, Judges, legal decision, rules

Non-Citizens and Deportation for Convicted Crimes

Moncrieffe v. Holder, 11-702 (2013) is an interesting Supreme Court decision.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), 8 USC 1101, provides that a non-citizen who has been convicted of an aggravated felony may be deported from the US.  As way of background, ordinarily, a non-citizen when facing deportation, may ask for discretionary forms of relief and cancellation of the removal.  The exception is for aggravated felonies.

This case comes because among the crimes that are classified as aggravated felonies are illicit drug trafficking offenses.  The issue the Supreme Court addressed is whether this category includes state criminal statutes that extends to the social sharing of a small amount of marijuana.

In a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court rejected the government’s position. The court explained that if a state crime of marijuana distribution does not closely match the federal crime of distribution, in a direct comparison of what each covers, it is not an “aggravated felony.”

In this case, the non-citizen came to the US legally in 1984.  In a traffic stop, the police found 1.3 grams of marijuana.  The non-citizen pled guilty to the charge of possession with the intent to distribute.  Under Georgia statute, this violation may be punishable up to 5 years.  Given this, the government alleged this was an aggravated felony.

The Supreme Court rejected this argument because it held the generically defined federal crime is “any federal punishable under the Controlled Substances Act.” 18 USC 924(c)(2).  “[N]ot just any offense ‘under the CSA’.”

The Supreme Court further explained,

This is the third time in seven years that we have considered whether the Government has properly characterized a low-level drug offense as ‘illicit trafficking in a controlled substance,’ and thus an ‘aggravated felony.’  Once again we hold that the Government’s approach defies ‘the commonsense conception’ of these terms….

Sharing a small amount of marijuana for no remuneration, let alone possession with intent to do so, ‘does not fit easily into the ‘every day understanding’ of ‘trafficking,” which ordinarily… means some sort of commercial dealing.’…

Nor is it sensible that a state statute that criminalizes conducted that the CSA treats as a misdemeanor should be designated an ‘aggravated felony.’  We hold that it may not be.

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Filed under Appellate, civil rights, courts, immigration, legal decision, Supreme Court

Jane Kelly confirmed for 8th Circuit bench

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Jane Kelly to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals by a vote of 96-0.  There were 4 non-voting votes.  If you can’t find the link, go here and find Vote 00108 (April 24th).

Jane Kelly will be the second woman and first public defender to serve in the history of the court since its establishment in 1891.

Jane Kelly received her bachelor’s degree from Duke University and her law degree from Harvard Law School in 1991.  After her graduation, Jane Kelly clerked for U.S. District Judge Donald J. Porter of South Dakota and Eighth Circuit Court Judge D. Hansen.

Jane Kelly has been an assistant public defender in the Northern District in Iowa since 1992, and the supervising attorney since 1999.

On the Senate floor, Senator Chuck Grassley stated, “She is a credit to all of use who have chosen public service.”

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Filed under Appellate, courts, Judges, Pending Legislation