Georgia Law clinics join to assist in litigation by immigrant women alleging abuse, retaliation while in ICE detention

Two clinics here at the University of Georgia School of Law have joined forces on behalf of women who allege they endured abusive gynecological and other medical treatments, as well as inhumane conditions and retaliation, while in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), at a privately run facility in south Georgia.

Allegations became public with a September report by an independent team of experts who reviewed complaints by detainee-whistleblowers at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, located 187 miles south of Atlanta and 55 miles north of Valdosta.

Investigations, congressional inquiries, and litigation ensued – including a habeas corpus petition that one detainee, Yanira Yesenia Oldaker, filed November 9 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. The Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School in New York represents Oldaker.

A mid-November phone call led to the representation by Georgia Law’s Community HeLP and First Amendment Law Clinics of another Irwin detainee-whistleblower. Because ICE has sought – at times successfully – to deport detainees who assist in exposing conditions, the case implicates both immigration statutes and the Constitution’s free speech guarantees.

The Georgia Law clinics prepared a motion on behalf of their client and 21 other detainees, women who migrated to the United States from at least 4 continents. Filed last Thursday, the motion and memorandum of law (available here) seek to add these women’s declarations in support of the Oldaker petition; additionally, to permit 19 of the women, who fear retaliation if identified, to proceed using “Jane Doe” pseudonyms and to file under seal their declarations, which contain allegations of abuse.

Clare R. Norins, Assistant Clinical Professor and a clinic director, explained:

While normally the First Amendment Clinic stands on the side of transparency in the courts, this time we are arguing for less public access in order to protect our client and the other 21 women from suffering retribution for exercising their free-speech right to describe their inhumane treatment to the court, and in so doing, petition to government for grievances.

The motion is pending before U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands in Valdosta.

Taking part in this team effort were faculty, staff, and students: for the First Amendment Clinic along with Professor Norins were 3L Anish Patel and Legal Fellow Samantha Hamilton; and for the Community HeLP Clinic, the director, Associate Dean  Jason A. Cade, and Staff Attorney Kristen Shepherd. Providing further assistance, including translation from English to Spanish, was administrative associate Sarah Ehlers.

At 9th Circuit, Georgia Law Appellate Litigation Clinic students press client’s case for asylum, withholding of removal, relief under Convention Against Torture

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard arguments this week in an immigration case prepared by a team of students in the Appellate Litigation Clinic here at the University of Georgia School of Law.

Georgia Law 3L Sarah Nelson argued on behalf of client Alicia Naranjo Garcia in Case No. 19-72803, Naranjo Garcia v. Barr. On account of the covid-19 pandemic, Nelson’s argument was delivered virtually, to a panel composed of Ninth Circuit Judges Ronald M. Gould and Michelle T. Friedland, along with U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Bough, sitting by designation. (Video here; Nelson is pictured above at lower left.)

Joining Nelson on the briefs were Jonathan Kaufman and Joe Scarborough, who earned their J.D.s earlier this year.  3L Maddie Conkel, one of Nelson’s classmates in the Appellate Litigation Clinic, helped Nelson prepare for the argument.

Together they represent appellant Naranjo Garcia, the mother of two children who are U.S. citizens. The client herself came to the United States after a cartel killed her husband, stole her husband’s property, tried to recruit her son, stole her home, and twice threatened to kill her.

Both the Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed that she had been persecuted, but found that her persecution was not “on account of” a protected ground.  Because of that, they denied her asylum and withholding of removal claims.  They also found that no public official would acquiesce to her being tortured if she were returned, and thus denied her claim under the Convention Against Torture.

The Ninth Circuit panel is now deliberating.

Georgia Law Appellate Litigation Clinic students invoke Convention Against Torture in 9th Circuit oral argument

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard arguments last week in an immigration case involving the Convention against Torture – a case prepared by a team of students in the Appellate Litigation Clinic here at the University of Georgia School of Law.

Georgia Law 3L Jason N. Sigalos argued on behalf of client Graciela Arellano Herrera in Case No. 19-72750, Arellano Herrera v. Barr. On account of the covid-19 pandemic, Sigalos’ argument was delivered virtually (video here), to a panel composed of Ninth Circuit Judges Margaret M. McKeown and Lawrence James Christopher VanDyke, along with U.S. District Judge Virginia Mary Kendall, sitting by designation. (Sigalos, who spoke from Georgia Law’s Hatton Lovejoy Courtroom, is pictured above at bottom right.)

Joining Sigalos on the briefs were his classmates in the Appellate Litigation Clinic (prior posts), 3L Mollie M. Fiero and John Lex Kenerly IV, who earned his J.D. earlier this year.

Together they represent appellant Arellano Herrera, the mother of seven children and grandmother of another seven, all U.S.-born citizens. The client herself has lived in this country since her parents brought her to the United States three days after her birth in Mexico.

Her appeal seeks reversal of a Board of Immigration Appeals order that she be removed from the United States. Relying on non-refoulement (non-return) obligations the United States took on when it ratified the 1984 Convention Against Torture, she argues that prior forced involvement with a drug cartel makes it unsafe for her to relocate anywhere in Mexico. She contends that if she were she to be sent back, it is more likely than not that cartel members would torture her, with the acquiescence of one or more public officials.

The Ninth Circuit panel is now deliberating.

Georgia Law Appellate Clinic secures at-risk client’s release from immigration detention center

The Appellate Litigation Clinic here at the University of Georgia School of Law has secured the release from immigration detention of a Cuban client who suffers from asthma and a history of cancer.

The 26 year old client, who has no criminal history, had come to the United States to avoid repeated police beatings for his protests against the government in Cuba. He had been held for nineteen months without a bond hearing at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, where as of mid-August 2 inmates had died from COVID-19 and more than 150 had been infected.

Students working through the clinic contended that their client’s medical condition increased the risk that while in detention during the present pandemic, he too would contract the novel coronavirus disease. They litigated his case in many administrative and judicial forums: a hearing on a motion for bond in Stewart Immigration Court; multiple parole requests to ICE, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency; a habeas petition before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia; and an opening brief and motion to expedite before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Working on the case were Addison Smith and Spencer D. Woody, both of whom earned their Juris Doctor degrees this past spring, along with 3L Steven L. Miller and 2Ls Christopher O. Brock, Destiny J. Burch and Maria C. “Mia” Hughes.

The merits appeal and detention appeal both continue even though the client has been released from ICE custody. Under the supervision of Thomas V. Burch and Anna White Howard, who direct Georgia Law’s Appellate Litigation Clinic, students will continue to pursue an Eleventh Circuit judgment in their client’s favor.

(Credit for photo of the Elbert P. Tuttle Courthouse in Atlanta, home to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit)

Georgia Law Community HeLP Clinic seeks immigration law staff attorney

The University of Georgia School of Law welcomes applications for the position of full-time staff attorney at our Community Health Law Partnership Clinic, which, as indicated in this prior post, represents noncitizens and low-income persons, primarily in the areas of immigration law and public benefits law.

Known as Community HeLP, this clinic has operated since 2014 as a medical-legal partnership serving the Athens, Georgia, area. It is one of Georgia Law’s 19 clinical and externship initiatives, several of which engage staff attorneys or legal fellows.

The Community HeLP staff attorney will work with the Clinic’s Director, Jason A. Cade, J. Alton Hosch Associate Professor of Law (prior posts), as well as administrative staff and community partners, to ensure the effective management of the clinic.

Based on a clinical practice model, the staff attorney’s duties will include:

  • Helping to supervise law school students enrolled in the Community HeLP Clinic, who are representing clients or engaging in advocacy projects, and further assisting with the Clinic seminar (pictured above) for those students;
  • Building and maintaining community partnerships and referral relationships.
  • Assuming primary responsibility for cases that either begin outside of, or do not conclude during, the academic year; or that exceed the capacity of students to handle during the academic year.

Qualifications sought include:

  • Possession of a J.D. degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association and of a license to practice law in at least one U.S. state. Candidates admitted to a state bar other than Georgia will be expected to seek admission to the Georgia Bar within six months of hire.
  • Outstanding skills in administrative advocacy; excellent written and oral communication abilities; a demonstrated commitment to public interest law and working with underserved populations; strong organizational and time-management skills; an ability to supervise law students effectively; and an ability to build and maintain community relationships.

Preference will be given to applicants who are fluent in both Spanish and English and who have at least two years’ practice experience in immigration law, ideally including some representation of clients in detention or removal proceedings.

For further information, contact Professor Cade at cadej@uga.edu.

Applications may be submitted here. Those received by March 16, 2020, will be assured consideration; thereafter, applications will be considered on a rolling basis until the position is filled.

Students in Georgia Law’s Appellate Litigation Clinic win Board of Immigration Appeals case on behalf of asylum-seeker from Russia

Four students in the University of Georgia School of Law Appellate Litigation Clinic have just secured asylum relief for a Russian client, and in so doing earned hands-on experience in practicing law in today’s interconnected world.

The client, Rim Iakovlev, is a Jehovah’s Witness who had fled to the United States after a ruling by the Russian Supreme Court outlawed his religion. A U.S. immigration judge granted his petition for asylum. But the U.S. Department of Homeland Security appealed. It was at this point that the Board of Immigration Appeals, through its pro bono project, appointed Georgia Law’s Appellate Litigation Clinic to represent asylum-seeker Iakovlev. The Board is an administrative appellate agency within the Executive Office for Immigration Review, U.S. Department of Justice.

Drafting the brief in the case, under supervision by Professor Thomas V. Burch, Director of the Appellate Litigation Clinic, were four Georgia Law students: 3Ls Wade H. Barron, C. Daniel Lockaby, and Sarah A. Quattrocchi, and 2L Addison Smith. Their brief stressed consistencies in the accounts given by Iakovlev and his wife, and also refuted the DHS contention that the asylum-seeker was obliged to present a letter from his congregation attesting to his status as a Jehovah’s Witness.

Upon reading the parties’ briefs, the Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the immigration judge’s decision to grant Iakovlev’s petition for asylum. DHS chose not to appeal the Board’s decision, so that Iakovlev was released from detention last week.

Update from Nigeria: attorney Chukwudi Ofili, LLM Class of 2018, reflects on his post-graduation year

This is one in a series of posts by University of Georgia School of Law LLM students, writing on their participation in our LLM degree and about their post-graduate experiences. Author of this post is alumnus Chukwudi Ofili, a member of the Class of 2018.

Chudi photoIt has been an eventful year for me. In January 2018, during my last semester at the University of Georgia, I began a corporate in-house counsel externship – an experiential learning opportunity open to qualified Georgia Law LLM students – at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta There, I had the opportunity to work on issues such as cybersecurity, imports, and Office of Foreign Assets Control compliance.

Following graduation, I took the New York bar examination in July.  When I learned that I had passed, I was in London, participating in the highly selective International Lawyers For Africa (ILFA) 2018 Flagship Secondment Programme (IFSP), which each year places lawyers from various African jurisdictions at highly reputed international law firms and corporations for a period of three months. I was placed with Trinity International LLP, a niche project and corporate finance firm focusing on energy, infrastructure, resources, and industry. During my secondment, I worked on some international transactions, with focus on financing power and infrastructure projects across the African continent.

Chudi speechIFSP was an enriching and exciting experience. It included training programs and networking events that introduced the participants to some of the brightest minds in the international legal market, in diverse practice areas. In particular, the networking opportunities were immense and may not be replicated in our lives on such a scale. I was pleased to selected to deliver the valedictory address for the London IFSP cohort at the ILFA Gala Night, which marked the end of the program.

I am now happy to be back in Nigeria at Bloomfield Law Practice, in the Corporate, Securities, and Finance practice group. I was recently interviewed for an article in THISDAY Newspaper Nigeria Legal Personality of the Week. In the interview, I expressed my hopes for good prospects in 2019. The year is already off to a good start: I’ve just completed a co-authored article,  Recognition and Enforcement of Cross-Border Insolvency; Nigeria in Perspective.

I came to Georgia Law after working with my firm, Bloomfield Law Practice, having graduated with first-class honors from Babcock University in Nigeria. At Georgia Law, I was the recipient of a prestigious graduate research assistantship, and participated in the Business Law Society.

I will always recommend the Georgia Law LLM curriculum, as it is tailored to each student’s career goals; for example, preparing to sit for a U.S. bar exam, or pursuing a concentration. Plus, students come to find out that Athens (which is just about an hour away from Atlanta) is a lovely place for studies, with friendly people.