November 26, 2015

Colorado Court of Appeals: Defendant Entitled to Hearing Under Crim. P. 35 if Facts Alleged Would Provide Basis for Relief

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Morones-Quinonez on Thursday, November 5, 2015.

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel—Advising of Immigration Consequences.

Defendant was charged with one count of criminal possession of a forged instrument and one count of criminal impersonation after officers conducting a traffic stop discovered a false identification card in her possession. She hired a lawyer whose practice focused on immigration and criminal law to represent her in both the criminal case and the removal proceedings that had been subsequently initiated.

Defendant alleged in her Crim.P. 35(c) motion that she was adamantly opposed to accepting any plea offer that would make her ineligible for relief from deportation. Her lawyer recommended she plead guilty to criminal impersonation, assuring her that she would be “just fine” in immigration court because it was “minor felony” and would not affect her immigration case. Defendant pleaded guilty to criminal impersonation and was later order deported by an immigration law judge. She filed this Crim.P. 35(c) motion, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. She contended that if she had been properly advised, she would have rejected the plea and proceeded to trial. The district court denied the motion without a hearing.

Defendant was entitled to a hearing so long as she asserted facts in her post-conviction motion that, if true, would provide a basis for relief. Applying the two-prong test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), the Court of Appeals examined whether defendant showed that (1) counsel’s representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) a reasonable probability exists that counsel’s deficient performance prejudiced the defendant.

The Court found that defendant had sufficiently pleaded deficient performance by her counsel. The Court disagreed that the district court could find as a matter of law that defendant’s allegation of prejudice was insufficient. It also found that the district court’s advisement did not cure any potential prejudice from the lawyer’s advice. Accordingly, the order was reversed and the case was remanded for an evidentiary hearing.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: Use of False Identity Immaterial to Wire and Mail Fraud and Cannot Form Basis for Convictions

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Camick on Friday, July 31, 2015.

Leslie Lyle Camick was a Canadian citizen who entered the United States in 2000 using the identity of his brother, Wayne Bradly Camick, who had died in infancy. Camick assumed his brother’s identity in order to avoid outstanding child support obligations and back taxes and to evade permanent driver’s license revocation due to numerous intoxicated driving offenses. Camick used his brother’s identity throughout his time in the United States.

In 2004, Camick began a professional and romantic relationship with Lyn Wattley. The couple eventually moved to Kansas and bought a home together under Camick’s assumed identity. In 2010, Camick and Wattley, together with machinist Mark Nelson, began developing an idea for a new way to cover manholes. In 2011, Camick’s and Wattley’s relationship deteriorated, and unbeknownst to Wattley, Camick filed a provisional patent application for the locking manhole cover. In the summer of 2011, Camick drove a 2006 GMC truck that he had paid for but that was titled in Wattley’s name to Arizona. Wattley became concerned about Camick driving since he had had prior intoxicated driving incidents, so she reported the vehicle stolen. Camick was arrested in New Mexico for theft of the truck but Wattley requested that the New Mexico charges be dropped. The Kansas warrant for the stolen vehicle remained outstanding.

In late 2011, Camick was arrested in New Jersey, where he was interviewed by U.S. Immigration Officer Jackey He to determine his immigration status. Eventually, Camick admitted his real name to Officer He and signed an affidavit that he had used his brother’s identity to enter and reside in the United States. Camick was placed under arrest and Officer He initiated removal proceedings against him. As a result of the arrest, Wattley discovered Camick’s true identity and initiated quiet title proceedings to remove the name Wayne Camick from their Kansas residence. She served Camick in the New Jersey detention center, but he failed to respond within the 30-day period and the Kansas court quieted title against him. More than a month after the Kansas court entered judgment, Camick submitted a response to the quiet title action, claiming he was the purchaser and owner of the subject property and that he had been unable to respond due to his immigration detention. The Kansas court responded by issuing a letter that Camick’s response did not comply with Kansas law and was untimely. Two months later, Camick sent another letter to the Kansas court claiming he had been “wrongfully detained” by ICE as a result of Wattley’s “falsified Police report.”

In March 2013, Camick was indicted on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, material false statement to the U.S. Patent Office, and three counts of aggravated identity theft relating to the fraud and false statement charges. In July 2013, Camick filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lawsuit against Wattley and others, alleging constitutional and tort violations arising from the 2011 stolen vehicle report. This lawsuit became the source of Camick’s obstruction of justice charge as contained in the government’s second superseding indictment. After a three-day trial, Camick was convicted of all seven charges and was sentenced to 48 months’ imprisonment followed by one year of supervised release. Camick was also ordered to pay $15,186 in restitution to Wattley. He timely appealed.

The Tenth Circuit analyzed the mail fraud charge, which was premised on the letter Camick mailed to the Kansas court regarding his failure to respond to the quiet title action. Camick argued the evidence was insufficient to show he made materially false statements with the intent to defraud. The Tenth Circuit agreed. The Kansas court and Wattley were aware of Camick’s true identity at the time he sent the letter, and he had been known as Wayne throughout his time in the United States. The Tenth Circuit held that Camick’s identity could have had no bearing on the Kansas court’s decision to uphold its default judgment. Camick’s statement that he had been “wrongfully detained” was likewise immaterial since it was incapable of influencing the Kansas court’s decision. The Tenth Circuit reversed Camick’s conviction for mail fraud and the related aggravated identity theft charge.

The Tenth Circuit next evaluated Camick’s challenges to the wire fraud and material false statement convictions, both of which pertained to the provisional patent application. Camick argued that because he was the actual inventor of the locking manhole cover and everyone knew him as Wayne Camick, his use of that name on the provisional patent application was insufficient to show a false statement with intent to defraud. The Tenth Circuit again agreed, holding that the false statements were immaterial to the provisional patent application. Because the provisional patent application did not require an oath or declaration by the applicant, the Tenth Circuit found Camick’s fraud in using his brother’s name immaterial to the provisional patent application. The Tenth Circuit reversed the convictions for wire fraud and material false statement. The Tenth Circuit also reversed the accompanying aggravated identity theft charges.

Camick challenged his obstruction of justice charge, arguing the evidence was insufficient to show that he filed the civil rights suit against Wattley with retaliatory intent. The Tenth Circuit, drawing inferences of retaliation from the timing of his filing, disagreed. The Tenth Circuit upheld this conviction. Judge Kelly dissented from this part of the opinion; he would have reversed the obstruction of justice conviction as well.

Finally, Camick argued that the restitution award improperly failed to tie Camick’s harms of conduct to the restitution requested by Wattley. The Tenth Circuit evaluated the restitution award and reversed the parts of the award requested for Wattley’s quiet title action and review of the provisional patent application. The Tenth Circuit also reversed the award of costs incurred in a separate civil lawsuit.

Camick’s convictions for mail fraud, wire fraud, material false statement, and aggravated identity theft were reversed. Camick’s conviction for obstruction of justice was affirmed. The case was remanded for a hearing on the remaining restitution award.

Tenth Circuit: Venue for Immigration Appeals Tied to Immigration Judge’s Location at Final Hearing

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Lee v. Lynch on Wednesday, July 1, 2015.

Yang You Lee is a citizen of Thailand who received lawful refugee status through his Laotian parents and was admitted to the United States in 1987 at age 5. In 2014, an Immigration Judge in Dallas found him removable for a misdemeanor domestic assault charge that was a crime of violence. The BIA agreed with the IJ and dismissed his appeal. Mr. Lee filed a petition for review in the Fifth Circuit, which sua sponte summarily transferred the petition to the Tenth Circuit. The Tenth Circuit asked the parties to address venue under 8 U.S.C. § 1252(b)(2) and reviewed their responses.

The Tenth Circuit first addressed whether § 1252 affects subject matter jurisdiction or is an ordinary venue provision. Following the reasoning of a number of sister circuits that have addressed the issue, the Tenth Circuit concluded that § 1252 is a non-jurisdictional venue provision. Next, analyzing the plain language of the statute, the Circuit found venue tied to the IJ’s location when the IJ completes removal proceedings. Although the Attorney General argued venue was proper in the Tenth Circuit because the final hearing location was docketed as Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the Tenth Circuit noted the final hearing was held in Dallas and all parties physically appeared in Dallas. The Tenth Circuit declined to defer to agency pronouncements and followed the language of the statute. The Tenth Circuit noted that although transfer would further delay the proceedings, the Fifth Circuit is the proper venue.

The Tenth Circuit transferred the petition to review to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Tenth Circuit: Misrepresentations on Visa Applications Constituted Mail Fraud, Forced Labor, and Visa Fraud

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Kalu on Monday, June 29, 2015.

Kizzy Kalu recruited 41 foreign nurses to work in the United States under specialty H-1B visas, advising the nurses they would be nurse instructor/supervisors at Adam University. Instead, when they arrived in the United States, the nurses were placed in nursing homes, where they performed ordinary nursing duties. Kalu’s company, Advanced Training and Education for Foreign Healthcare Professionals Group, LLC (“FHPG”), placed the nurses in the nursing homes and although the nurses were typically paid $35/hour for their labor, FHPG paid the nurses only $20/hour and kept the rest of the money. If the nurses left their FHPG employment, Kalu would charge them $1,000 per month regardless of whether they were employed and would threaten them with deportation, visa revocation, and penalties if they did not pay Kalu’s monthly fee.

Kalu and the former president of AU were charged with a 132-count indictment. In Kalu’s superseding indictment, (1) Counts 1-22 charged mail fraud; (2) Counts 23-37 charged encouraging and inducing an alien; (3) Counts 38-40 charged visa fraud; (4) Counts 41-57 charged forced labor; (5) Counts 55-64 charged trafficking in forced labor; (6) Counts 65-95 charged money laundering. Kalu was eventually convicted on 89 of the 95 counts and sentenced to 130 months’ imprisonment for mail fraud, forced labor, trafficking in forced labor, and money laundering and concurrently sentenced to 120 months’ imprisonment for visa fraud and encouraging and inducing aliens. Kalu was also ordered to pay $475,592.94 in forfeiture and $3,790,338.55 in restitution to compensate the nurses for their losses. Kalu appealed, contending erroneous jury instructions required reversal and the restitution award was erroneously calculated.

The Tenth Circuit first evaluated Instruction 17, which discussed the elements of mail fraud. Kalu contended the trial court plainly erred by failing to instruct the jury that specific intent to defraud is an element of mail fraud. The Tenth Circuit agreed that the trial court plainly erred, but found that the error did not substantially affect the fairness of the proceedings because there was ample record evidence that Kalu misrepresented the details of the nurses’ employment and salaries to the nurses and to immigration officials, knew the statements he was making were false, and profited from the scheme. The Tenth Circuit held Kalu failed to make a showing that the outcome of the proceeding would have been different if the jury had been properly instructed.

Turning next to Kalu’s contention that the district court’s mail fraud instruction constructively amended the superseding indictment, the Tenth Circuit found no error. Kalu’s argument failed at the first prong of plain error review.

Kalu next alleged the instructions misstated the necessary mens rea for encouraging or inducing an alien. The district court’s instructions used a knowledge and negligence standard rather than a knowledge and recklessness standard, thus lowering the burden for convicting Kalu under the statute. The Tenth Circuit agreed with Kalu that the district court plainly erred in instructing the jury on knowledge and negligence rather than recklessness. Again, though, the Tenth Circuit found that the error did not substantially affect Kalu’s rights or the fairness of the proceeding, since Kalu failed to demonstrate a reasonable probability that the outcome would have been different if the jury were properly instructed because the prosecution presented ample evidence of Kalu’s actual knowledge at trial.

Kalu also contended that the instructions misrepresented the definition of “serious harm” by changing the word “compel” to “cause.” The Tenth Circuit found no error in this change, noting that ample evidence showed Kalu compelled the nurses to continue in their forced employment.

Finally, the Tenth Circuit evaluated the restitution award. The trial court calculated the restitution award by subtracting the amount the nurses were actually paid from the amount they were promised. The district court relied on the promised three-year term of employment in its calculations. The Tenth Circuit found no error in this method of calculation. Although Kalu argued he only promised the nurses “up to $72,000 annually,” when he completed their H-1B applications, he wrote they would be paid $72,000 annually, thereby promising them that amount. The Tenth Circuit also rejected Kalu’s argument that the nurses may have left their employment before the expiration of the three-year period, finding the nurses that left did so precisely because of Kalu’s misrepresentations.

The district court’s judgment was affirmed.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Defendant Entitled to Crim. P. 35 Hearing on Justifiable Excuse or Excusable Neglect in Counsel’s Advice

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Martinez-Huerta on Thursday, May 21, 2015.

Crim.P. 35(c)—Immigration—Ineffective Assistance of Counsel—Affirmative Advice—Justifiable Excuse—Justifiable Neglect.

In April 2007, defendant, a citizen of Mexico and a lawful permanent resident of the United States, pleaded guilty to vehicular eluding, a class 5 felony. At that time, he also admitted to violating the terms of his deferred judgment and sentence on an unrelated 2006 felony. In July 2007, the court sentenced him in both cases. In August 2013, defendant was placed into removal proceedings pursuant to § 237(a)(2)(A)(ii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as a noncitizen who, after admission, was convicted of two crimes involving moral turpitude not arising out of a single scheme of criminal misconduct. He was ordered removed from the United States in December 2013. In 2014, defendant filed a Crim.P. 35(c) motion seeking to withdraw his guilty plea, alleged ineffective assistance of plea counsel because his defense attorney assured him that a conviction would not have any immigration consequences. The trial court summarily denied his Crim.P. 35(c) motion as time barred. Defendant appealed.

When a defendant alleges that the untimely filing of a Crim.P. 35(c) motion resulted from a reasonable reliance on plea counsel’s affirmative but erroneous advice about the immigration consequences of the plea, causing the defendant to neglect to pursue timely collateral relief, the defendant is entitled to ahearing on the issue of justifiable excuse or excusable neglect. Therefore, the order was reversed and the case was remanded for a hearing on the merits of defendant’s Crim.P. 35(c) motion.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: “Particular Social Group” Need Not Be Visibly Distinct But Must Have Distinguishing Characteristic

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Rodas-Orellana v. Holder on Monday, March 2, 2015.

Benjamin Rodas-Orellana entered the United States on or around September 6, 2006, when he was 17 years old, and DHS commenced removal proceedings on September 16, 2006. Mr. Rodas-Orellana appeared before an IJ on August 28, 2007, and conceded removability but applied for asylum and withholding of removal, indicating he sought to escape poverty and gang violence in El Salvador. Mr. Rodas-Orellana specifically contended that the MS-13 gang had pressured him to join in the past and he had resisted, and this constituted a well-founded fear of persecution because of his membership in a particular social group, specifically young Salvadoran males who refused to join the gang.

On June 28, 2012, the IJ denied Mr. Rodas-Orellana’s applications for asylum and withholding of removal, finding that although Mr. Rodas-Orellana had suffered in the past at the hands of gang members, he had indicated no reason for him to be targeted by gang members other than their general desire to control the population in their areas. The IJ further concluded that Salvadoran youth who have resisted recruitment by gangs do not constitute a particular social group. Mr. Rodas-Orellana appealed to the BIA, who rejected his appeal in a January 22, 2014 final order of removal. The BIA agreed with the IJ that Mr. Rodas-Orellana’s rejection of gang membership did not place him in a particular social group, and also that perceived American nationality did not constitute a particular social group. On March 11, 2014, Mr. Rodas-Orellana filed a motion to reconsider with the BIA in light of two recent decisions, but the BIA denied his motion on May 1, 2014. On June 13, 2014, Mr. Rodas-Orellana filed a motion to consolidate his two BIA appeals, which the Tenth Circuit granted.

The Tenth Circuit reviewed the two BIA denials to consider (1) if the BIA erred in determining Mr. Rodas-Orellana was not a member of a particular social group, in light of recent BIA decisions on the issue, and (2) if the BIA erred in determining Mr. Rodas-Orellana was not persecuted based on his membership in a particular social group.

The Tenth Circuit first examined the BIA’s interpretation of the term “particular social group,” especially in light of the two recent BIA decisions narrowing its definition. The Tenth Circuit determined that a group need not be literally visibly distinguishable to constitute a “particular social group” but must have some special characteristic enabling recognition of group members. The Tenth Circuit found Mr. Rodas-Orellana failed to prove that his proposed group of young Salvadoran males who resist gang membership is socially distinct. The Tenth Circuit’s 2012 decision in Rivera-Barrientos v. Holder, 666 F.3d 641 (10th Cir. 2012), where a young Salvadoran female who resisted gang membership was denied asylum, controlled as to Mr. Rodas-Orellana. Although the record reflected that gang activity is not well controlled in El Salvador, nothing suggested that Mr. Rodas-Orellana belonged to a group more susceptible to gang violence than general members of the population.

The Tenth Circuit denied Mr. Rodas-Orellana’s petition for review, finding no evidence that Mr. Rodas-Orellana was a member of a particular social group or that he was persecuted because of that membership.

Tenth Circuit: Waivers of Inadmissibility Only Precluded for Individuals Who Became LPRs at Time of Admission

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Medina-Rosales v. Holder on Tuesday, February 24, 2015.

Carlos Jovany Medina-Rosales entered the United States at an unknown date and became a lawful permanent resident (LPR) on November 27, 2001. On August 8, 2013, he was convicted of grand larceny in Oklahoma state court, and DHS began removal proceedings a month later. The notice of removal ordered him to appear before an immigration judge in Dallas, even though the issuing officer was in Tulsa. Medina-Rosales appeared in front of the Dallas IJ via videoconference. He conceded removability but sought a waiver of inadmissibility under § 1182(h). The IJ determined Tenth Circuit law applied, despite his physical location in Dallas, and determined Mr. Medina-Rosales was ineligible for a waiver of inadmissibility. The BIA dismissed Mr. Medina-Rosales’ appeal, and Mr. Medina-Rosales petitioned the Tenth Circuit for review.

The Tenth Circuit determined as a preliminary matter that Tenth Circuit law applied, since the charging document determines the location of the proceeding and in this case the charging document was issued in Tulsa. The IJ’s presence in Dallas did not change the location of the proceedings.

The Tenth Circuit next addressed whether § 1182’s waiver of inadmissibility language applies to individuals who became LPRs at some point after admission into the United States. Most circuits to have addressed the issue agree that the plain language of § 1182 contemplates that it only applies to individuals who were admitted at the time they became LPRs, but the Tenth Circuit had not addressed the issue.

After examining the language of § 1182, the Tenth Circuit agreed with the other circuits that the statute only precluded waivers of inadmissibility for those individuals who were admitted at the same time they became LPRs. Because Mr. Medina-Rosales was admitted at some undetermined time prior to becoming an LPR, the language did not apply to him. Despite the seemingly illogical conclusion that Congress intended the statute only to apply to those who were admitted at the same time they became LPRs, the Tenth Circuit found that Congress had ample opportunity to amend the statute and had not done so.

The Tenth Circuit found Mr. Medina-Rosales to be eligible for discretionary consideration of waiver of inadmissibility under § 1182 and remanded for further proceedings.

Law Week: Simple Tips For A Small Firm Owner

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in Law Week Colorado on February 18, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

Catherine_ChanBy Catherine Chan

Small firm owners have to wear many hats, among them: business promoter, manager and senior attorney. Each of those roles requires the development and refinement of distinct skill sets.

In 2004 I began a solo practice specializing in immigration law. In 2010, I hired my first associate attorney. Since 2010, the firm has grown to include three active attorneys (including me), three paralegals and a receptionist. We strive to continue to grow our capacity to help more people.

Sometimes I’m asked by new attorneys to talk about my firm’s path and to offer tips for firm growth and development. The truth is that small firm ownership, management and development is not easy. Most small firm owners just went to law school; they lack an MBA. An MBA might help with the business side of things, but it is not required to apply some common-sense principles. Here are four top tips I’ve learned over the past ten years while developing a solo practice into a small firm.

First, everybody loves customer service. If you don’t feel a good communication with a prospective client, trust your gut. Don’t hire them. For the clients you do hire — it’s not just them hiring you — you must offer that constant winner: customer service.

Clients feel they receive good customer service when the people in your firm are happy to see them, glad they called and are eager to find a response to their important question. Customer service includes the aim of providing satisfaction to the client in their purchase of your legal services. Of course, a firm can’t guarantee results. It can, however, work passionately and competently for a client’s cause, case or position. A firm can prioritize client communication and listen to the client’s questions and concerns. At the end of the day, all our clients want to be heard. We win their loyalty and referrals by graciously and faithfully complying with that request.

Second, hire and empower the best team of professionals available in the market that you can afford. As a small firm owner, you do not have the luxury of acting only as a senior associate in your firm. You have to concern yourself with the task of raising revenue to sustain the firm and to grow it. Therefore, you need key team players that are competent, motivated and able to deliver consistent and accurate products.

The firm owner can and must do many things to support and maintain a great team. You must strive to provide a workplace that is relaxed, calm and supportive. You must provide your team with responsibility and challenges. This includes providing opportunities for their self-promotion and growth — you are well advised to encourage it and invest in that for your team members. A firm can encourage its team’s growth and knowledge through providing and promoting a generous CLE budget, including for the support staff. The firm can allow for work-from-home opportunities, mental health days and maternity and paternity time. The firm should encourage work-life balance in word and in deed. The firm should also create opportunities for advancement of team-members as individuals and as ambassadors of the firm. The betterment of your team in practically any dimension adds measurable value to your firm. Individuals are motivated to succeed and to shine and to grow. The firm always wins in turn. A good plan is to provide guidance and avenues for your team to succeed, attach recognition and reward and relax antiquated notions about productivity and value.

Third, identify your niche, study it and specialize. Firms can grow and add practice areas according to their goals and growth. It may be advisable, however, especially for small firms in the early stages of growth, to pick a niche and to specialize in that. Simply put, it’s easier to study one trade carefully than to attempt to study a few trades sporadically. Next, commit your intellect, passion and dedication to your expertise. Achievement and success are positively correlated with your commitment and devotion.

Fourth, you must passionately love and respect your firm and your practice. When you love something passionately, you are grateful for it, you are mindful of it, you pay it respect and admiration, you pay it kind and tender attention and you work to keep it and increase it in order to continue enjoying it.

If you are passionate about the law, you study it, you hold it in reverence, you strive at sharpening your skills, you accept challenge and responsibility and you positively promote your profession. Instilling passion in your work can affect the outcome of your cases and your practice — whatever your field, whomever your client, whatever the cause.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed trying to run a small firm. The world of unknowns, risks and fears looms large. But risk is inherent in business, and fear is not conducive to success. The unknown simply is waiting to be discovered. A small law firm filled with passionate professionals committed to their service and their trade stands poised to succeed in the law and in business.

Catherine Chan is the managing attorney at the Chan Law Firm, a small firm specializing in immigration law.

The opinions and views expressed by Featured Bloggers on CBA-CLE Legal Connection do not necessarily represent the opinions and views of the Colorado Bar Association, the Denver Bar Association, or CBA-CLE, and should not be construed as such.

Tenth Circuit: Reinstatement of Removal Not Final Until Reasonable Fear Proceedings Complete

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Luna-Garcia v. Holder on Tuesday, February 10, 2015.

Melida Teresa Luna-Garcia is a native of Guatemala whose removal was ordered in 2004. She executed that order in 2007 when she left the United States and returned to Guatemala. She was again discovered in the United States on July 9, 2014, and DHS reinstated the 2004 removal order on July 11, 2014. Luna-Garcia expressed fear of harm if she returned to Guatemala and was referred to an asylum officer. She filed a petition for review with the Tenth Circuit on August 11, 2014, before the asylum officer issued a reasonable fear determination. Later, the asylum officer determined she did not have a reasonable fear, but an immigration judge has since reversed the asylum officer’s finding and Luna-Garcia is now in withholding of removal proceedings before the immigration judge.

Luna-Garcia requested the Tenth Circuit to determine when a reinstatement of removal order is final for purposes of appeal. The Tenth Circuit explained the process of reinstating a removal order and possibilities for review of reinstatement. The INA defines finality in terms of review by the BIA, but reinstatement orders are not appealable to the BIA. The Tenth Circuit examined the meaning of “final” and found that it generally means there is nothing more to do than execute the judgment. In the case where an alien argues fear of harm precludes removal, the reinstatement order is not final until the reasonable fear proceedings are complete.

The Tenth Circuit granted the government’s motion and dismissed the proceedings for lack of jurisdiction.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Defendant Has Right to Withdraw Plea as Void Ab Initio Even When Deferred Judgment Completed

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Corrales-Castro on Thursday, March 26, 2015.

Deferred Judgment—Successful Completion of Sentence—Withdrawal of Guilty Plea—Jurisdiction—Immigration Consequences—Voluntary—Unconstitutional—Ineffective Assistance of Counsel.

In 2009, defendant pleaded guilty to criminal impersonation and DUI. The district court imposed a one-year deferred judgment and sentence on the criminal impersonation count, and one year of probation on the DUI count. In 2010, defendant successfully completed the conditions of the deferred judgment and probation. The district court withdrew the guilty plea on the criminal impersonation count, dismissed that count, and closed the case. In 2013, defendant filed a Crim.P. 32(d) motion to withdraw his guilty plea to criminal impersonation, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied the motion, holding that it lacked jurisdiction to consider defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

On appeal, defendant argued that the district court erred when it held it did not retain jurisdiction to consider his motion. When a guilty plea that is withdrawn after the successful completion of a deferred judgment may nevertheless result in the removal of a defendant from the United States (or the defendant’s inability to re-enter the country), Crim.P. 32(d) authorizes the defendant to challenge the constitutionality of the plea, regardless of its prior withdrawal. Here, defendant claimed that ineffective assistance of counsel rendered his guilty plea involuntary and thus unconstitutional because his defense counsel had failed to inform him that his guilty plea to criminal impersonation could have negative federal immigration consequences, even if he successfully completed the conditions of the deferred judgment. Furthermore, under the circumstances presented here, a Crim.P. 32(d) motion is not subject to the time limits of CRS § 16-5-402(1), and defendant’s motion is not time barred by that statute. Accordingly, the district court retained jurisdiction to decide defendant’s motion, the order denying defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea under Crim.P. 32(d) was reversed, and the case was remanded for a determination of defendant’s Crim.P. 32(d) motion.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: United States v. Black Did Not Change Tenth Circuit Precedent

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Garcia-Ramirez on Wednesday, February 18, 2015.

Marcos Garcia-Ramirez entered into a plea agreement that included an appeal waiver, pleading guilty to one count of illegal reentry into the United States and receiving a 19-month sentence. Despite the appeal waiver, Garcia-Ramirez challenged his sentence as “unreasonable,” arguing simply that the court should exercise its discretion to bypass any decision on whether to enforce an appeal waiver pursuant to United States v. Black, 773 F.3d 1113, 1115 n.2 (10th Cir. 2014).

The Tenth Circuit noted that Garcia-Ramirez’s argument is based on a misreading of BlackBlack did not change the Tenth Circuit’s judicial jurisprudence but merely addressed a matter of judicial economy in deciding cases. United States v. Hahn, 359 F.3d 1315, 1328 (10th Cir. 2004), continues to be binding precedent regarding enforceability of appeal waivers, and since Garcia-Ramirez failed to cite even a single Hahn factor, his appeal failed and the motion to enforce was granted.

Tenth Circuit: Acquittal on Drug Trafficking Charges Does Not Preclude Immigration Removal

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Mena-Flores v. Holder on Friday, January 23, 2015.

Gustavo Mena-Flores entered the United States illegally in 1990. In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings. Mr. Mena-Flores admitted he was “undocumented,” but sought permanent residency based on his marriage to a U.S. citizen. The Department contended Mr. Mena-Flores was not eligible for residency due to criminal activity, stemming from an arrest of Mr. Mena-Flores on charges of drug trafficking.

Mr. Mena-Flores’ brother, Santiago, ran a drug trafficking organization. During his arrest and indictment, four witnesses identified Mr. Mena-Flores as involved in Santiago’s organization. Although Mr. Mena-Flores was eventually acquitted of all charges, the Department argued he should be denied residency due to “reason to believe” he could have been involved in the drug trade. The immigration judge granted Mr. Mena-Flores’ request for adjustment in status, but the Department appealed, and the BIA remanded to the immigration judge to consider all evidence of drug trafficking activity. On remand, the immigration judge denied Mr. Mena-Flores’ petition, finding there was reasonable, substantial, and probative evidence creating a reason to believe he had been involved in drug trafficking.

Mr. Mena-Flores appealed to the BIA, which upheld the immigration judge’s decision. He appealed the BIA’s decision to the Tenth Circuit. He then hired new counsel, who urged the BIA to reopen the case to consider new evidence. Mr. Mena-Flores argued his trial counsel was ineffective by failing to present the evidence earlier. The BIA denied the motions and Mr. Mena-Flores appealed.

Before addressing the merits of Mr. Mena-Flores’ appeals, the Tenth Circuit addressed the Department’s arguments that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal. The Department argued 8 U.S.C. § 1252 barred review of (1) orders against aliens who are removable because of participation in drug trafficking, (2) orders involving discretionary relief, and (3) unexhausted arguments.

The Tenth Circuit extensively evaluated the term “removable” and determined that, although there was an inference Mr. Mena-Flores was involved in drug trafficking, he was not “removable” based on the drug trafficking because he was being removed for lack of documentation. The Department next argued that since adjustment in status involves a form of discretionary relief, the Tenth Circuit lacked jurisdiction. The jurisdictional bar in 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(2)(B)(i) does not apply to the nondiscretionary aspects of relief. Finally, the Department argued Mr. Mena-Flores had not exhausted his administrative remedies, but the Tenth Circuit disagreed.

Addressing the merits of the appeal, the Tenth Circuit evaluated whether the BIA’s conclusion that Mr. Mena-Flores’ participation in drug trafficking precluded permanent residency was supported by substantial evidence. The Tenth Circuit looked at the inferences that Mr. Mena-Flores participated in drug trafficking and noted that he bore the burden of proof to show he was not involved in the drug trade. The Tenth Circuit would uphold the BIA’s determination if the evidence was “reasonable, substantial and probative.”

The Tenth Circuit found no error in the BIA’s determination. Witness statements, a special agent’s affidavit, and Mr. Mena-Flores’ testimony all influenced the immigration judge’s decision that Mr. Mena-Flores was not eligible for an adjustment in status due to his participation in drug trafficking activity. Because Mr. Mena-Flores bore the burden of proof, the Tenth Circuit found no error in the BIA’s decision. The evidence presented by Mr. Mena-Flores that tended to show non-involvement did not outweigh the inference created by the government’s evidence.

Mr. Mena-Flores also appealed the BIA’s denial of his motion to reopen. Although he argued that he had presented new evidence to the BIA, the Tenth Circuit disagreed. Mr. Mena-Flores’ counsel’s discretionary and tactical decisions to include or exclude evidence did not constitute ineffective assistance.

The Tenth Circuit found that Mr. Mena-Flores failed to meet his burden of proof, and affirmed the BIA’s decisions.