Thursday, February 18, 2010

Zetino v. Holder (9th Cir. - Feb. 18, 2010)

You see a relatively high amount of incompetence in immigration court. Cookie-cutter petitions. Excessive fees for doing nothing. Horrible briefs. Missed deadlines.

Not uniformly, of course. But this is definitely a problem area.

There's one place, however, where I've never seen a problem: Law school immigration clinics. When they agree to take the case, you generally get incredibly dedicated (though inexperienced) advocates and outstanding supervision. All delivered for free.

It's like hitting the attorney lottery.

But even Superman and Superwoman combined can only do so much.

Here, Ronald Zetino gets picked up by la migra in May 2001. He can't afford bail, having been in the U.S. for less than 18 months. So he gets to stay in prison . . . for the next six years.

He also can't afford a lawyer, so he files pro se briefs and the like, all to no avail. Finally, and virtually inevitably, Zetino gets deported. Equally inevitably, he eventally blows a deadline; in this case, a November 30, 2007 deadline for the incarcerated Zetino to file an appellate brief before the BIA.

Five days after this deadline, Zetino hits the lottery and gets the USC law clinic to take his case. Nine days later, the students and supervisors at USC file a motion to file a late brief and for an extension of time in order to "accommodate student exams and the ensuing winter break." (I don't entirely understand why this took nine full days, or why at least a pro forma brief couldn't have been cranked out rather than a mere extension of time, but maybe there's a reason.)

The BIA says "no". USC then appeals. And loses there too. Fancy due process and related claims notwithstanding.