Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Contumelious Or Obnoxious

The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department has imposed a suspension of six months and until further order in a case involving "contumelious or obnoxious" conduct before an Immigration Judge in California.

The attorney appeared in a case involving three Burmese nationals. He submitted information to the court concerning the political situation in Burma after the judge indicated that he had not previously handled a Burmese asylum case.

When the attorney returned to court several months later, he was piqued to learn that the judge had not yet read the materials:

On April 3, 2007, respondent returned to the El Centro Court for M.H.'s and T.W.'s individual hearing. At the hearing, IJ Weil admitted that he had not yet read the background materials, but would do so after the hearing. Respondent refused IJ Weil's suggestion to put over the matter, stating that: "I will not come back ... to sit here and do nothing but listen to you make a decision when I can be called on the telephone. . . [F]or me to fly out here [] just to hear a decision." IJ Weil then informed respondent that he might require further testimony at the next date and reminded respondent that he had known that the case was located in El Centro when he accepted it. Respondent later stated that were IJ Weil to require him to return to the El Centro Court, respondent would advise the BIA and "[t]he higher officials in Washington of what is happening." IJ Weil took this to be a threat.

During the asylum hearing, respondent stated to IJ Weil: "I don't know how you do things here but it's not satisfactory to me ...And it's not permissible...It's not acceptable." Later, after informing IJ Weil that he would need 10 minutes for closing argument, respondent rejected the court's suggestion that he "start wrapping it up," stating that "I will only do a brief argument, Judge, if I believe it's appropriate" and then continued to argue.

The hearing was held in one of the matters on the following day.

IJ Weil referred the attorney's conduct for disciplinary investigation to the Executive Office of Immigration Review, which filed a notice of intent to discipline him "for having engaged in contumelious or otherwise obnoxious conduct."

The attorney later apologized the the IJ. He was nonetheless suspended from immigration practice for seven months:

ALJ Thomas noted that, despite his apology to IJ Weil, a "number of [] comments [made] about [IJ] Weil's testimony [at the disciplinary hearing] reflect the same ongoing undercurrent of disparagement or disrespect for the judicial office as is reflected in the MH tapes themselves." These comments included a claim that IJ Weil concealed information, attributing IJ Weil's pride of being "methodical" to being a product of his lack of preparedness, questioning the veracity of IJ Weil's claim that other lawyers do not complain, and challenging whether IJ Weil understood "what an asylum hearing is about."

Here, the court rejected the attorney's attempt to avoid reciprocal discipline in New York. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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