Cases & Deals

Supreme Court victory for Cameroon immigrant

Clients Client A

On October 5, 2009, Jones Day won a victory in the United States Supreme Court for our pro bono client, a political refugee from Cameroon. The Supreme Court granted Jones Day's petition for certiorari in Afanwi v. Holder, No. 08-906, vacated the decision of the Fourth Circuit, and remanded to that Court for further consideration in light of the Solicitor General's confession that the Fourth Circuit had erred.

Our client had fled Cameroon after he was repeatedly detained, beaten, and tortured because of his political opposition to the repressive ruling government. While represented by different counsel, our client's application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture was denied by both the Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA"), on grounds that have since been definitively rejected as improper by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Despite the BIA's plainly erroneous ruling, our client was deprived of his right to appeal his case to the Fourth Circuit because his prior counsel failed to file a timely petition for review. Jones Day then assumed the representation, and sought to have BIA reopen our client's case, on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel, so that he could file a timely appeal. BIA, however, held that it lacked jurisdiction to provide such a remedy.

Jones Day appealed BIA's decision to the Fourth Circuit, and argued that our client had both an administrative right and a constitutional right to relief from his prior counsel's prejudicial ineffective assistance. The Fourth Circuit held that BIA lacked jurisdiction to provide administrative relief and that aliens in deportation proceedings have no right to effective assistance of retained counsel. See Afanwi v. Mukasey, 526 F.3d 788 (4th Cir. 2008)

Following that decision, the Jones Day team filed an amicus brief in a related case before then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, arguing that BIA does have jurisdiction to provide an administrative remedy for ineffective assistance of counsel in cases where the alien's lawyer fails to file a timely petition for review. The Attorney General's opinion, which extensively cited Jones Day's amicus brief, agreed and held that BIA has jurisdiction to provide an administrative remedy for ineffective assistance of counsel for failure to file a timely petition for review. In re Compean, 24 I&N Dec. 710 (A.G. 2009). Following reconsideration of In re Compean, current Attorney General Eric Holder reaffirmed that BIA has jurisdiction to provide such an administrative remedy. In re Compean ("Compean II"), 25 I&N Dec. 1 (A.G. 2009).

On January 16, 2009, the Jones Day team then filed a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court, challenging both the Fourth Circuit's administrative and constitutional rulings. The Solicitor General filed a certiorari response that confessed error regarding the Fourth Circuit's administrative ruling.

Following the Supreme Court's ruling in our client's favor, Jones Day will continue to assist him in seeking to obtain relief from the ineffective assistance of counsel he suffered, and in ultimately obtaining the asylum, withholding of removal, and Convention Against Torture protection to which he should be entitled.

Afanwi v. Mukasey, 526 F.3d 788 (4th Cir. 2008), In re Compean, 24 I&N Dec. 710 (A.G. 2009), In re Compean ("Compean II"), 25 I&N Dec. 1 (A.G. 2009), Afanwi v. Holder, No. 08-906

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