Clients in removal proceedings (Deportation) should be aware that the immigration court or EOIR has implemented a new Immigration Court Practice Manual ("ICPM"). Assistant Chief Immigration Judge, the Honorable Thomas Fong recently discussed implementation of the Immigration Court Practice Manual. According to Judge Fong, the goal of the ICPM is to provide standardized rules from court to court, as well as having rules that complement the procedures for filing an appeal before the Board of Immigration Appeals.
The practice manual is also intended help relieve the problem of attorneys representing clients at trial without proper preparation or passing cases to other attorneys at a law firm without proper notification to the court. In addition, disciplinary rules for attorneys who do not represent their clients in a responsible way have been toughened, providing even for the suspension from practice of attorney during the complaint process.
The attorney who first appears with you in court is the attorney of record and it is the court's expectation that your attorney will continue to make the remainder of the appearances with you. That attorney is also required to sign all motions and other papers filed with the court. The fact that two or three attorneys may work at the same law firm does not give allow them to appear with you in court inter-changeably. If a new attorney is to appear with you in court that person must either submit a request to appear on your behalf for that particular or file a motion for substitution of counsel and an entry of appearance for the new attorney must be filed. The EOIR explicitly does NOT recognize that a law firm represents an individual. Only an individual attorney can represent an individual in court.
Also important are standardized filing deadlines which require that most papers filed with the court be submitted 15 days prior to the next hearing. Judge Fong stated that some judges may require more time (30 to 60) days for cause, or if the Judge requested the papers be filed prior to June 2007.
Finally attorney discipline has been described in detail in the manual. Several important grounds for discipline are set forth, and as Judge Fong emphasized, any person including a client or an immigration judge may file a complaint with the EOIR. Examples of misconduct include the charging of "grossly excessive fees", repeated failures to appear in court, and assisting the unauthorized practice of law in which one attorney may be acting as a "front" for non-attorneys to practice immigration law. An attorney subject to disciplinary proceedings may be subject to immediate suspension pending an application for suspension filed with the Board of Immigration Appeals.
At Wilner & O'Reilly we welcome the effort of the Immigration Courts to raise the standards of practice and eliminate the worst abuses of clients. It is important to realize that these rules have been put in place for a reason, because non-lawyers or "notarios" cannot provide adequate representation, even when they "use" an attorney to appear in court. It is crucial that a qualified immigration attorney handle a case from inception to the final trial on the merits of the case. Anything less indicates a fragmented and uniformed approach to your representation that can result in disaster.
Robert J. DuPont is an attorney with the law firm of Wilner & O'Reilly. Mr. DuPont Graduated from Yale University and USC Law School and is admitted to the California Supreme Court, and Federal District Courts in the Central and Northern Districts of California as well as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Mr. DuPont is a regular speaker with ILW, and past chairman of the Immigration Law Committee with the Beverly Hills Bar Association. Mr. DuPont has risen to prominence with a 10 year practice in the field of immigration law as well as influencing Department of State and USCIS practices and policies through Federal District Court litigation including a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision on V-Visas eliminating age-out of minor V-visa recipients.