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Immigration Law

Noncitizens Have No Right to Counsel in Deportation Cases, Mukasey Finds

Posted Jan 8, 2009 4:47 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Days before a new presidential regime will be in place at the White House, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey issued a written opinion (PDF) yesterday finding that noncitizens have no constitutional right to counsel in deportation proceedings.

The attorney general's opinion, which reverses a 15-year precedent established by Matter of Lozada, is also expected to make it more difficult for aliens who retain private attorneys to seek relief for ineffective assistance of counsel, reports the Blog of Legal Times.

The ruling was greeted with dismay by immigrants rights groups, which intend to seek relief in Congress, according to the BLT. But, in the meantime, federal courts are likely to defer to the attoprney general's opinion as far as ineffective assistance claims in immigration cases are concerned, Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, tells the law blog.

The opinion, which must be followed by the nation’s immigration courts and Board of Immigration Appeals, gives them discretion to reopen cases when major counsel error prejudices a case.

Earlier ABAJournal.com coverage:

AG Asks Whether Potential Deportees Have Right to Effective Lawyers

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