Monday, June 15, 2015
The issue in the case was a technical judicial review question: whether the Fifth Circuit erred in this case in holding that it has no jurisdiction to review petitioner's request that the Board of Immigration Appeals equitably toll the ninety-day deadline on his motion to reopen as a result of ineffective assistance of counsel. Mata, who was placed in removal proceedings based on a criminal assault conviction, sought to reopen the proceedings, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. The Fifth Circuit had ruled that it lacked jurisdiction over the appeal.
As previously reported on the ImmigrationProf blog, the outcome was pretty predictable in light of the fact that the Office of the Solicitor General had conceded that the Fifth Circuit was on the wrong end of circuit split. The Court appointed as counsel to defend the decision Beck Redden LLP associate William Peterson.
Justice Kagan delivered the opinion of the Court. All but one of the Justices joined her opinion finding. The Court ruled that the Fifth Circuit erred in declining to take jurisdiction over Mata’s appeal. A court of appeals has jurisdiction to review the BIA’s rejection of an alien’s motion to reopen. (citing Kucana v. Holder, 558 U. S. 233, 253). Nothing about that jurisdiction changes where the Board rejects a motion as untimely, or when it rejects a motion requesting equitable tolling of the time limit. If immigration officials deny that motion, a federal court of appeals has jurisdiction to consider a petition to review their decision. Notwithstanding that rule, the court below declined to take jurisdiction over such an appeal because the motion to reopen had been denied as untimely. The Court holds that was error.
Justice Thomas was the lone dissenter.
The decision in Mata v. Holder seems to me to be consistent with what I see as the Court's pattern of ensuring normal judicial review of immigration rulings of the Board of Immigration Appeals. Click here for a summary of that analysis and a link to a Social Science Research Network abstract of the paper.