Misconduct By 3 Sekhon Firm Lawyers Puts Up to 700 Clients in Peril
Posted Nov 16, 2009 12:10 PM CST
By Martha Neil
Sekhon & Sekhon claimed a 95 percent success rate concerning more than 1,000 immigrants that the law firm helped to win political asylum in the United States.
But now up to 700 could be deported because they lied to immigration judges and asylum officers after the law firm and interpreters urged them to do so, reports the Sacramento Bee.
Convicted in June of conspiracy to defraud the government, three lawyers, including the two brothers who founded the firm, and two interpreters are scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in Sacramento next month. They could get as much as 10 years.
Asylum cases are notoriously difficult to prove, since supporting documentation is often minimal or nonexistent, and individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome can be terrible witnesses. In some cases, the defendants coached clients to lie even when they had, in fact, suffered treatment that would create a legitimate fear of persecution. Apparently, they expected the fictionalized version to be more persuasive to the immigration judge, according to the newspaper.
Now authorities have to figure out what to do with the clients who told false stories. They could be deported, or their cases could be reheard.
"These are going to be hotly contested cases as to whether or not the person who says he was prejudiced by an unethical lawyer deserves a second chance," says Judge Dana Leigh Marks. She is president of the National Association of Immigration Judges and a veteran immigration court jurist in San Francisco.
"We're going to have to work through them case by case, judge by judge, and it's the judge's job not to be cynical and burned out."
ABAJournal.com: "3 Lawyers Guilty in ‘Assembly-Line Fraud Factory’ Calif. Asylum Scam"