(CN) – An immigration attorney’s concession that his client was removable did not deprive the client of his right to due process, the 9th Circuit ruled, because it wasn’t the sort of “egregious conduct” that constitutes ineffective assistance of counsel. The court noted with irony that the petitioner had relied on the same attorney to raise that very claim.
Petitioner Eduardo Torres-Chavez stayed in the United States after his temporary residency card, issued in 1988, had expired. He said he applied for permanent residency, but never received a response.
In 2003, he went to immigration offices in Reno, Nev., and submitted a handwritten note that said, “I need to know where my work card is. Can someone please check on it?”
Immigration agents determined that he was in the country illegally and arrested him.
Torres hired attorney Steven Brazelton to represent him at his hearing. During the hearing, Brazelton allegedly admitted that Torres was living in the country illegally and was removable. He told the immigration judge that his client would be seeking cancellation of removal and asked for a continuance.
But Torres never filed the application. Instead, he moved to withdraw the factual admissions made at the hearing. The San Francisco-based appeals court pointed out that Brazelton filed the motion on Torres’ behalf and has continued to represent him, even as Torres claimed ineffective assistance of counsel.
Torres argued that he never would have admitted he was an alien had his attorney informed him of his right to remain silent.
He also moved to suppress all evidence against him, citing a confidentiality provision covering the contents of a residency application.
The immigration judge denied both motions, and the San Francisco-based appeals court affirmed.
“Even if we assume that Torres may claim that Brazelton’s services were ineffective while continuing to rely on Brazelton’s services to raise that very claim,” Judge Ikuta wrote, “his argument fails because Brazelton’s representation of Torres did not fall outside the wide range of reasonable representation.”