The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado announced a courthouse closure. On Friday, December 9, 2016, from 12:45 to 6 p.m., the courthouse will be closed for business due to a law enforcement training exercise. The Alfred A. Arraj Courthouse will be closed to the public. The Byron G. Rogers Courthouse will remain open, but no court business will be conducted. Court business in the Durango and Grand Junction courthouses will be conducted as scheduled. All electronic systems to include CM/ECF and PACER will remain in operation during this time period. For more information, click here.
Colorado Gives: CBA CLE Legal Connection will be focusing on several Colorado legal charities in the next few days to prepare for Colorado Gives Day, December 6, 2016. These charities, and many, many others, greatly appreciate your donations of time and money.
The Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN) is a nonprofit legal services organization that believes justice for immigrants means justice for all. RMIAN provides life-changing legal services to vulnerable immigrant children in Colorado, and to adults in immigration detention. Without this assistance from RMIAN’s attorneys, RMIAN’s child clients and individuals in detention would be forced to face immigration court hearings entirely on their own, an injustice by any standard. A national study, headed by a federal judge, found that immigrants with lawyers are five times more likely to win their cases than those without. For many, a loss in immigration court means deportation and a forced return to the persecution, abuse, or other violence from which they fled. For many others, it signifies a permanent and heartbreaking separation from spouses, partners, children, siblings, and other loved ones. RMIAN’s programs are dedicated to ensuring legal representation, due process, and support.
RMIAN’s Detention Program has a daily presence at the immigration detention center in Aurora, Colorado, where over 900 individuals are detained on civil immigration charges every day. RMIAN’s attorneys provide know-your-rights presentations before detained individuals have to go before the immigration judge for the first time, assist with applications and case preparation, refer cases to pro bono attorneys, represent clients, and provide social service support for the most vulnerable detainees. Recent RMIAN cases involving clients in detention include a man from Somalia granted asylum on the basis of his political opinion; a longtime lawful permanent resident granted a second chance by the immigration judge to stay with his family in Colorado; a young man from Honduras granted asylum based on the persecution he would face because of his sexual orientation; and numerous clients who won bond reductions with RMIAN’s representation. In 2015, RMIAN’s Detention Program provided 209 know-your-rights presentations to over 1,700 individuals in detention, conducted over 800 individual intakes, held 33 workshops for over 100 individuals fighting their cases on their own, and provided intensive individual assistance to over 500 detainees. In addition, RMIAN’s staff attorneys and volunteer attorneys represented 59 clients in their complete immigration court cases.
RMIAN’s Children’s Program provides immigration legal services to children through Colorado. Recent clients include a young man who was granted a T visa based on being a victim of human trafficking; several children who won Special Immigrant Juvenile Status as a result of being abused, abandoned or neglected; several young crime victims and their family members who were granted U Visas; and numerous youth who were granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. In the past several years, RMIAN’s Children’s Program has seen an exponential increase in its representation of unaccompanied children who fled horrors in their home countries and who are now seeking asylum and other immigration relief before the Denver Immigration Court. In 2015, RMIAN’s Children’s program directly represented 288 children, conducted 658 intakes and consultations, and referred 205 cases to pro bono attorneys. By providing free legal services to immigrant children, as well as outreach efforts to community partners, RMIAN educates children and their families on the rights and protections to which they are entitled under federal immigration law and works to ensure that Colorado’s communities are safe.
In addition to direct legal services, RMIAN provides community education and training about immigration law, particularly as it relates to individuals in immigration detention and immigrant children. In 2015, RMIAN gave 66 presentations to 2,210 community members.
Please consider making a donation to RMIAN today to help us fulfill our values statement, “We believe that justice for immigrants means justice for all.” Donations may be mailed directly to RMIAN at 3489 West 72nd Avenue, Suite 211, Westminster, CO 80030 or via RMIAN’s website at www.rmian.org RMIAN is participating in Colorado Gives Day on Tuesday, December 6, 2016.
The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Torres on Thursday, November 17, 2016.
Guilty Plea—Immigration Status—Post-Conviction Motion—Statutory Time Bar—Justifiable Excuse—Excusable Neglect.
Chavez-Torres is a citizen of Mexico who came to the United States with his family when he was a child. While in high school, Chavez-Torres pleaded guilty to first degree criminal trespass. The trial court sentenced him to probation, which he successfully completed.
Seventeen years after his criminal trespass conviction, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings, alleging that Chavez-Torres was not legally present in the United States and had been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. Chavez-Torres moved for post-conviction relief from his criminal trespass conviction under Crim. P. 35(c) based on ineffective assistance of counsel. He alleged that he had informed his plea counsel that he was not a U.S. citizen but counsel advised him to accept the plea agreement without telling him that the guilty plea carried a risk of adverse immigration consequences. He claimed that had he been properly advised he would have insisted on going to trial. He asserted that as a result, his plea and conviction were constitutionally infirm. While acknowledging that his post-conviction motion was untimely, he alleged that these circumstances amount to justifiable excuse or excusable neglect. The trial court denied the motion as untimely, finding that the prejudice to the state would be too great, given the passage of time, and that he failed to assert facts amounting to justifiable excuse or excusable neglect.
On appeal, Chavez-Torres contended that the district court erred in summarily denying his post-conviction motion based on the statutory time bar because he asserted facts that, if true, would establish justifiable excuse or excusable neglect. Here, even though Chavez-Torres had informed plea counsel that he was not a citizen of the United States, counsel had advised him to accept the plea agreement without telling him that the guilty plea carried a risk of adverse immigration consequences. Chavez-Torres subsequently completed his probation and did not learn that his conviction had adverse immigration consequences until the removal proceedings were initiated. Under these circumstances, it cannot be concluded, as a matter of law, that justifiable excuse or excusable neglect did not exist.
Defendant also argued that the finding that the State would suffer “great” prejudice has no record support. The Colorado Court of Appeals determined that the existing record does not support the district court’s finding that the state will suffer great prejudice.
The order denying the post-conviction motion was reversed and the case was remanded to the district court to determine whether Chavez-Torres has established justifiable excuse or excusable neglect for his untimely post-conviction motion. If he can, the court must then consider the merits of his post-conviction motion.
Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado has adopted changes to its local rules, effective December 1, 2016. The changes include a new Rule 2.1, “Forms of Action,” and an entire section on Local Patent Rules.
New Rule 2.1 clarifies that a proceeding not defined as a civil action under F.R.C.P. 2 should be filed as a civil miscellaneous (“mc”) or registered judgment (“rj”) action only if included in the List of Miscellaneous Cases. Rule 5.3 was amended by the addition of a subparagraph (c) dealing with written discovery requests or responses. The subparagraph specifies that other than in prisoner cases or as otherwise ordered, discovery requests shall be submitted by email or in other non-paper form. There were several other minor changes to various rules.
Section III on the Local Patent Rules is a comprehensive section dealing with the handling of patent claims in the U.S. District Court. The local rules are to be cited as D.C.Colo.LPtR _. The rules are to be known as the Local Rules of Practice of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado – Patent Rules. The rules specify that the civil local rules apply except as inconsistent with the patent rules. Topics addressed in the local patent rules include scheduling conferences and orders, discovery and confidentiality, infringement, invalidity, declaratory judgment, reliance on counsel’s opinion, claim construction, final infringement and invalidity contentions, and word limits. The remaining sections were renumbered accordingly.
Comments about the local rules may be submitted to the Advisory Committee on the Local Rules via email. For more information about the local rule changes, click here. For a redline of the changes, click here.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Golicov v. Lynch on Monday, September 19, 2016.
Constantine Fedor Golicov, a lawful permanent resident, was convicted in Utah state court of failing to stop at a police officer’s command, a third-degree felony. He was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. While serving his sentence, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) served Golicov with a Notice to Appear, charging that he was removable under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii) because his Utah conviction constituted an aggravated felony under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Golicov denied the charge and moved to terminate removal. An immigration judge agreed with Golicov, denying the charge and terminating removal proceedings. DHS appealed, and the BIA reversed the immigration judge and remanded to the IJ to “explore Golicov’s potential eligibility for relief.”
On remand, Golicov moved to terminate the proceedings on the grounds that the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), effectively rendered unconstitutional and improper for use in immigration proceedings the definition of “crime of violence” contained in 18 U.S.C. § 16(b). The IJ rejected his argument on remand, and the BIA affirmed the IJ. Golicov appealed to the Tenth Circuit.
The Tenth Circuit noted that the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment requires specificity in order to properly apprise ordinary people of the conduct that is prohibited. The government initially argued that because a removal proceeding is civil, the criminal law holding in Johnson should not apply. The Tenth Circuit disagreed, noting that because deportation proceedings can strip non-citizens of their rights, statutes that impose the penalty of deportation are subject to Fifth Amendment vagueness challenges.
The Tenth Circuit reviewed Johnson‘s holding that the residual clause in the Armed Career Criminal Act was void for vagueness, and noted the similarity between the ACCA residual clause and the INA’s residual definition of “crime of violence.” The Tenth Circuit remarked that two circuits have addressed the identical issue and both determined that the INA residual definition was void for vagueness, and two other circuits addressed the issue in a criminal context and also determined the INA’s definition was unconstitutionally vague. The Tenth Circuit agreed with its sister circuits that the INA’s residual “crime of violence” definition is void for vagueness.
The Tenth Circuit vacated the order of removal and remanded to the BIA for further proceedings.
On Monday, May 23, 2016, the Colorado Lawyers Committee held its annual awards luncheon at the Marriott Denver City Center. Nancy B. Elkind, founding partner of Elkind Alterman Harston PC, received the organization’s Outstanding Sustained Contribution Award. Ms. Elkind is on the Board of Directors for the Colorado Lawyers Committee, and she was chair of the committee from 2011 to 2013. She contributes extensively to her community through her work with the Colorado Lawyers Committee, helping the organization provide high-impact pro bono work while advocating, negotiating, and litigating for children, the poor, and other disadvantaged groups. She has practiced immigration law for over 30 years, and has provided counsel and guidance to hundreds of immigrant families and individuals, as well as to employers that are seeking to hire the “best and the brightest.” Ms. Elkind is also the managing editor of CBA-CLE’s treatise, Immigration Law for the Colorado Practitioner, and she also lectures frequently on topics related to immigration law.
Aaron A. Boschee, senior associate at Squire Patton Boggs, received the Colorado Lawyers Committee’s Individual of the Year Award. Mr. Boschee is the Colorado Lawyers Committee Task Force Chair, and lead class counsel for the Taylor Ranch Litigation, through which he coordinates the pro bono efforts of over 30 lawyers at numerous law firms throughout the region. Mr. Boschee practices in the areas of commercial litigation, arbitration, and debt restructuring, focusing on debtor-creditor disputes, asset recovery and loss mitigation, real estate-based lending and litigation, creditor-lien priority, shareholder and director disputes, and fraud. He received his undergraduate degree from Minnesota State University and his law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, received the Committee’s Law Firm of the Year Award. The Law Firm of the Year Award is given to firms whose attorneys and staff made significant pro bono contributions to Lawyers Committee projects during 2015. Lauren Schmidt, BHFS’s pro bono partner, and Martha Fitzgerald are members of the Colorado Lawyers Committee’s Board of Directors and Schmidt serves on the Executive Committee. Tenley Oldak serves on the Leadership Board of the Colorado Lawyers Committee Young Lawyers Division. Under Ms. Schmidt’s leadership, BHFS’s pro bono program has increased dramatically, and the firm is a signatory to the national Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge. The firm has pledged to average 50 hours of pro bono work per lawyer per year.
Congratulations to all the honorees of the Colorado Lawyers Committee Awards.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Obregon de Leon v. Lynch on Tuesday, December 22, 2015.
Cristian Eduardo Obregon de Leon was a native citizen of Guatemala who entered the United States without inspection in September 1997. In 2007, he adjusted his status to that of a lawful permanent resident (LPR). In 2011, he was charged with and pleaded guilty to four offenses in Oklahoma state court: (1) one count of operation of a chop shop, (2) four counts of possession of vehicles with altered identification numbers, (3) four counts of possession of a stolen vehicle, and (4) two counts of receipt of stolen property.
In January 2013, the Department of Homeland Security filed a Notice to Appear, charging that Mr. Obregon was removable for committing a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT). Mr. Obregon admitted the factual allegations at hearing but denied removability, arguing his crimes did not qualify as CIMTs. The Immigration Judge ultimately found that all four crimes counted as CIMTs and concluded he was not eligible for waiver relief. Mr. Obregon appealed, and a single BIA judge dismissed his appeal, concluding that the stolen property offenses counted as CIMTs because they required a mens rea of knowing the property was stolen.
Mr. Obregon appealed to the Tenth Circuit, arguing none of his convictions counted as CIMTs and that he should be eligible for waiver because he adjusted to LPR status after entering the United States. The Tenth Circuit first evaluated the term “crime involving moral turpitude,” and determined it was quintessentially ambiguous. However, following several other circuits and BIA precedent, the Tenth Circuit found that possession of stolen property satisfies the scienter element to create a CIMT. Mr. Obregon argued there must be intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner of the property, but the Tenth Circuit disagreed, finding Mr. Obregon’s “application of legal imagination” did not suffice to show that the requisite scienter was permanent deprivation. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the BIA’s determination that Mr. Obregon’s possession of stolen property crimes were crimes involving moral turpitude.
However, as to Mr. Obregon’s argument that he was eligible for waiver because he adjusted his status to that of LPR after entering the United States, the Tenth Circuit agreed. Following recent Tenth Circuit and BIA precedent, the Tenth Circuit ruled that the plain language of the waiver statute barred application for waiver only for those who received LPR status before or upon entering the United States.
The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Castillo on Tuesday, December 15, 2015.
Wilber Castillo was convicted in California in 2004 of second-degree robbery, and was removed from the United States in 2007. In 2009, he reentered the United States without inspection. In 2011, he was convicted of shoplifting and in 2014 he was convicted of disorderly conduct. He was interviewed by ICE after his 2014 arrest, and based on his admission, Castillo was charged with illegal reentry under 18 U.S.C. § 1326. The base offense level for illegal reentry is 8 but because of his 2004 conviction for robbery, which is classified as a crime of violence, his total offense level was 24, resulting in a Guidelines range of 46-57 months’ imprisonment. Castillo objected to the application of the crime of violence enhancer. The district court ruled Castillo’s prior conviction was a crime of violence and the offense level was correct, but nevertheless varied downward and sentenced Castillo to 24 months’ imprisonment. Castillo appealed.
The Tenth Circuit examined California Penal Code § 211 to determine whether a conviction under that section qualifies as a crime of violence for purposes of Guidelines § 2L1.2. Castillo argued that because § 211 considers threats to property as crimes of violence, it does not substantially correspond with the generic definition of robbery. The government conceded that including threats to property is a minority position, but argued that the crimes covered by § 211 outside the generic definition of robbery fell within the generic definition of extortion, which is also considered a crime of violence. The Tenth Circuit agreed. Following the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning in another case that evaluated whether a conviction under § 211 qualified as a crime of violence, the Tenth Circuit found that because the elements of § 211 that do not correspond to the generic definition of robbery are encompassed in the generic definition of extortion, and both crimes are considered crimes of violence, the sentencing enhancer applied.
The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Saenz Mencia v. Allred on Monday, December 14, 2015.
German Wilmer Saenz Mencia, a citizen of Peru, came to Utah to work on the Allreds’ sheep ranch under an H-2A sheepherder visa, and was paid $750 per month plus room and board, the minimum for sheepherders. He brought claims in district court, arguing that the work he performed did not qualify as sheepherding and instead he was entitled to the hourly wage for ranch hands. Mr. Saenz asserted claims in contract and quantum meruit for the lost wages and FLSA minimum wage claims against the Allreds. The district court rejected Mr. Saenz’s claims, denied his summary judgment motion, and granted summary judgment to the Allreds. Mr. Saenz appealed.
The Tenth Circuit first analyzed the H-2A definition of sheepherding and the FLSA definition of range production of livestock. The Tenth Circuit determined that to fit the definitions, Mr. Saenz must have spent over half of his time on the range tending to the sheep and must have extremely variable hours, described as “the constant surveillance of livestock that graze and reproduce on range lands.” The Tenth Circuit found that there was no plausible reading of the definitions that would render Mr. Saenz a sheepherder. Mr. Saenz worked in the vicinity of ranch headquarters where the Allreds could see what he was doing and ask him to help with odd jobs. Mr. Saenz did work with sheep, but they did not graze; they were fed hay. The Tenth Circuit concluded that Mr. Saenz did not work on the range as contemplated by the definitions. The Tenth Circuit found further evidence in the fact that the Allreds and Mr. Saenz were easily able to approximate his hours, and that most of his jobs were incidental to sheepherding. The Tenth Circuit found that Mr. Saenz was a ranch hand, not a sheepherder.
The Tenth Circuit next examined the district court’s finding that Mr. Saenz’s claims were estopped. The district court found that because Mr. Saenz never complained of being underpayed while employed by the Allreds, he was estopped from bringing claims in court. The Tenth Circuit disagreed. The Allreds were employers of more than a dozen H-2A sheepherders, and had obtained the H-2A visas for their employers by vouching for the type of work they would do. The Tenth Circuit concluded the Allreds had both actual and constructive knowledge of the nature and location of Mr. Saenz’s work and rejected their equitable estoppel claim. The Tenth Circuit held that the Allreds had easy access to lawyers and were in the business of importing laborers, and they were therefore not entitled to equitable estoppel under Utah law.
The Tenth Circuit addressed each of the Allreds’ six alternative grounds on which they asked the court to affirm and found none convincing. The Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the Allreds and directed it to grant summary judgment to Mr. Saenz. The Tenth Circuit remanded for a calculation of damages and any other proceedings necessary.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Cespedes v. Lynch on Thursday, November 19, 2015.
Jose Ramon Cespedes, a native and citizen of Venezuela, became a conditional lawful permanent resident of the United States in 2012. He was later charged with domestic violence in Utah state court, and in April 2013, that court issued a protective order against him. In November 2013, Cespedes pleaded guilty to an attempted violation of the protective order under its no-contact provision.
In May 2014, the Department of Homeland Security brought a charge to remove under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(E)(ii) against Cespedes for violation of the protection order. In a hearing before an immigration judge (IJ), Cespedes argued his conduct was not covered by § 1227. The IJ rejected his argument and ordered him removed from the United States. The BIA affirmed, relying on Matter of Strydom, 25 I. & N. Dec. 507, 510 (2011), in which Strydom was ordered removed for violating a no-contact order, and the BIA determined that no-contact orders “provided protection against threats of violence,” which could include contact in violation of a no-contact order.
On appeal to the Tenth Circuit, Cespedes conceded that Strydom would apply to his case but argued it was wrongly decided. The Tenth Circuit held that it was. The Tenth Circuit acknowledged that it owed the BIA deference under Chevron, and found that Cespedes’ contact in violation of the protective order violated § 1227.
Addressing Cespedes’ next argument, the Tenth Circuit found that “as purely a matter of English, the argument makes some sense,” but reading the language in context, the Tenth Circuit found that Congress would not have intended a state court to explain the purpose of each clause of a protective order. The Tenth Circuit recognized that all a state court would need to do is to find a violation of a protective order and the IJ and BIA would do the rest.
The Tenth Circuit affirmed the BIA and IJ.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Vladimirov v. Lynch on Tuesday, November 10, 2015.
Vladimir Vladimirov entered the United States in February 1996 as a nonimmigrant visitor authorized to stay until August 1996. However, he never left the United States. In 2005, he married Valentina Bakhrakh, a U.S. citizen. Bakhrakh filed an I-130 petition for alien relative to adjust Vladimirov’s immigration status, and Vladimirov filed an I-485 application for adjustment of status.
U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) Officer Randall interviewed Bakhrakh and Vladimirov in March and May 2006 to ascertain the bona fides of their marriage. Based on their conflicting statements under oath about their address, how long they had lived there, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms at their address, Vladimirov’s marriage proposal, the type of ring, the wedding, their morning routine, and what they had done the previous weekend, Officer Randall requested a site visit, which occurred in April 2008 by USCIS Officer Gibson. Officer Gibson questioned Vladimirov about various items she found in home and he admitted they belonged to his ex-wife, not Bakhrakh. Vladimirov also admitted he and Bakhrakh did not have a valid marriage and had lied to make it appear as if they did. Officer Gibson met with Bakhrakh and her adult son the next day to discuss the evidence of the sham marriage and the consequences of falsifying an I-130. At the end of the interview, Bakhrakh withdrew the I-130 petition.
Based on Bakhrakh’s withdrawal of the I-130 and the evidence of the sham marriage, Officer Randall denied Vladimirov’s I-485 application. A Notice to Appear (NTA) was then filed against Vladimirov based on his misrepresentations and the sham marriage, and he requested a hearing in front of an immigration judge. The IJ determined the government had met its burden of establishing removability based on marriage fraud and ordered Vladimirov removed to Bulgaria. Vladimirov’s appeal to the BIA was dismissed.
Vladimirov appealed to the Tenth Circuit, arguing he was not given notice of the conduct forming the basis of the fraud charges, and the government’s evidence was insufficient to prove those charges. He also argued he was denied due process in the administrative proceedings. The Tenth Circuit denied each claim in turn. The Tenth Circuit found that the NTA clearly charged him with entering into a sham marriage with Bakhrakh, and fraud and willful misrepresentation in filing an I-485 based on the sham marriage. The marriage fraud charge was based on Vladimirov’s representation that he was in a bona fide marriage with Bakhrakh. The Tenth Circuit found that this provided a basis for removability, and the NTA gave Vladimirov adequate notice of the charges against him.
As for Vladimirov’s contention that the evidence was insufficient to prove the charges against him, the Tenth Circuit declined to independently weigh the evidence. The Circuit found substantial record support for the finding that the couple’s conflicting statements about their lives together indicated they were not in a valid marriage, and together with Vladimirov’s admission about the I-485 and Bakhrakh’s withdrawal of the I-130, ample evidence supported the IJ’s finding.
Turning to Vladimirov’s due process contentions, the Tenth Circuit noted that immigration proceedings need not approximate constitutional protections afforded to criminal defendants. Vladimirov asserted four violations of his due process rights. First, he argued he was not afforded an opportunity to cross-examine Officer Gibson. The Tenth Circuit noted that there was no circuit authority requiring personal appearance by a government agent. Although the Circuit noted that better contrary evidence than Officer Gibson’s report may have “carried the day,” Vladimirov chose not to testify in his own defense, thereby forgoing any opportunity to refute the information in Officer Gibson’s report. Vladimirov next contended that the government erred by introducing “triple hearsay” in Officer Gibson’s report. However, the Tenth Circuit again noted that hearsay is regularly used in administrative adjudications, which lack the constitutional requirement of confrontation as afforded to criminal defendants. Next, Vladimirov argued that the Form I-213 denial of his I-485 application was prepared in anticipation of litigation and so lacked a presumption of reliability. Again, the Tenth Circuit rejected Vladimirov’s arguments, finding no evidence of unreliability. Finally, the Tenth Circuit considered Vladimirov’s contention that Bakhrakh was coerced into withdrawing her I-130. The Tenth Circuit characterized the allegations as serious, but noted that informing someone of the consequences of marriage fraud is not coercion.
The Tenth Circuit denied Vladimirov’s petition to review.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in De Niz Robles v. Lynch on Tuesday, October 20, 2015.
Alfonzo De Niz Robles filed a petition for adjustment of status in 2007, relying on the Tenth Circuit’s opinion in Padilla-Caldera v. Gonzales (Padilla Caldera I), 426 F.3d 1294, 1300-01 (10th Cir. 2005), amended and superseded on reh’g, 453 F.3d 1237, 1244 (10th Cir. 2006), which held that 8 U.S.C. §§ 1255(i)(2)(A) allowed the Attorney General discretion in affording relief from removability under § 1182(a)(9)(C)(i)(I). After De Niz Robles filed his petition, the BIA issued In re Briones, 24 I. & N. Dec. 355 (BIA 2007), which overturned the Tenth Circuit’s decision in Padilla Caldera I. In 2013, the BIA ruled that De Niz Robles was categorically ineligible for relief due to its Briones decision, which it applied retroactively. De Niz Robles appealed to the Tenth Circuit.
Applying the Chevron test and guided by the Supreme Court’s ruling in National Cable & Telecommunications Ass’n v. Brand X Internet Services (Brand X), 545 U.S. 967 (2005), the Tenth Circuit determined it was required to decide whether Briones could reasonably apply retroactively, thereby overruling Tenth Circuit precedent. The Tenth Circuit analyzed the separation of powers doctrine, noting that judicial decisions are presumed to apply retroactively due to the impartial nature of the judiciary, whereas Congressional rule-making is presumably prospective only unless otherwise specifically stated. Because administrative rulemaking is a delegation of Congressional power, the Tenth Circuit found that administrative rules are presumptively prospective in application. However, when confronted with a situation where an administrative agency acts in a quasi-judicial capacity, such as the BIA did in Briones, the Tenth Circuit examined whether the administrative action is more akin to judicial function or legislative function.
The Tenth Circuit determined that, in applying its rules pursuant to a Congressional delegation of power, the BIA was acting in a quasi-legislative capacity. Examining due process and equal protection concerns, the Tenth Circuit determined it would contravene Supreme Court precedent and constitutional safeguards to allow the BIA’s decision to be applied retroactively. The Tenth Circuit therefore overturned the BIA’s refusal to consider De Niz Robles’ petition. The Tenth Circuit noted that at the time De Niz Robles filed his petition, Padilla Caldera I was the existing circuit precedent, and he was justified in his reliance on that precedent. The BIA argued that De Niz Robles should have understood that there was a conflict between § 1255 and § 1182, and that there was a chance the conflict would be resolved against De Niz Robles’ position. The Tenth Circuit found that approach illogical, noting that a litigant is justified in relying on the law at the time a petition is filed.
The Tenth Circuit remanded to the BIA for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.