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Stelian N. Marinov v. Eric H. Holder

August 1, 2012

STELIAN N. MARINOV, PETITIONER,
v.
ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, RESPONDENT.



Petition for Review of an of Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals. No. A089 303 449

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tinder, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED APRIL 13, 2012

Before BAUER, KANNE, and TINDER, Circuit Judges.

Stelian Marinov, a native and citizen of Bulgaria, petitions for review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals upholding an Immigra- tion Judge's denial of his motion to reopen an in absentia removal order. Marinov argues that the Board erred in finding he received adequate notice of his removal hearing and in concluding that he failed to satisfy the standards set forth in Matter of Lozada, 19 I. & N. Dec. 637 (BIA 1988), for claiming ineffective assistance of coun- sel. Finding no error, we deny the petition for review.

I. Background

Marinov entered the United States in May 2005 as a nonimmigrant exchange visitor, had his status changed to that of a nonimmigrant visitor, and remained in the United States beyond the date authorized. He applied for asylum, and his application was referred to the im- migration court. The Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") served Marinov with a Notice to Appear ("NTA"), charging him with removability pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(1)(B), as an alien admitted as a nonimmigrant who remained in the United States longer than authorized.

An attorney entered an appearance on Marinov's behalf, admitted the allegations in the NTA, conceded removability, and sought transfer of venue from the immigration court in Cleveland, Ohio, to Chicago, Illinois. The motion was granted. On December 18, 2009, the immigration court served notice by mail to Marinov's attorney of record at the address provided on his entry of appearance form, advising that a hearing in Marinov's case was set for August 3, 2010. The attorney attended the hearing; Marinov did not. The Immigration Judge ("IJ") found that notice of the hearing was given to Marinov, he had a reasonable opportunity to be present but did not appear, and no reasonable cause was given for his absence. The IJ therefore ordered Marinov removed in absentia pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1229a(b)(5)(A).

On September 24, 2010, Marinov, represented by new counsel, filed a motion to reopen removal pro-ceedings based on a lack of notice and exceptional cir- cumstances. He argued that he was not provided with actual notice of the hearing because notice was not mailed to his home address, although he conceded notice was sent to his counsel. He also argued that he failed to appear for his hearing because of the ineffective assistance of his former counsel in failing to notify him of the hearing date. Marinov claimed that it was not until the day before the hearing that his former counsel first notified him of the hearing date by leaving a voice message. Marinov did not listen to the message until the morning of the hearing. By that time, however, it was too late for him to appear at the hearing. (He lived in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, approximately 200 miles from Chicago.) Marinov also alleged that his former counsel made several factual misrepresentations to the IJ at the hearing. The motion to reopen included a copy of Marinov's attorney disciplinary complaint, stamped received by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disci- plinary Commission ("ARDC") on September 21, 2010. The complaint detailed Marinov's relationship with his former counsel and alleged that counsel did not notify him of the hearing until the day before and misrepre- sented to the IJ the reasons for Marinov's absence.

On October 1, 2010, the IJ denied Marinov's motion to reopen. She decided that he received proper notice of the hearing because notice was mailed to his counsel of record. The IJ recognized that ineffective assistance of counsel may constitute exceptional circumstances warranting a reopening, but found that Marinov failed to comply with the standards of Matter of Lozada for reopening based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Specifically, she found that he had not provided evidence that his former counsel was informed of the allegations against him or afforded an opportunity to respond.

Marinov appealed to the Board, which agreed that he received proper notice because it was undis-puted that written notice was provided to his counsel of record. The Board recognized Marinov's claim that former counsel failed to notify him of the hearing date as an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim, which can constitute exceptional circumstances for purposes of rescinding an in absentia removal order. But it agreed that Marinov had not satisfied all the Matter of Lozada criteria, namely the requirement that counsel be notified of the allegations and allowed an opportunity to respond before the allegations of ineffective assistance are pre- sented to the Board. It rejected the argument that the ARDC complaint satisfied this requirement, concluding that the bar complaint and notice to counsel were two separate requirements. The Board also noted that Marinov filed his motion to reopen only 3 days after filing his ARDC complaint, which denied former counsel any realistic opportunity to have received the allegations and respond to them. And it concluded based on the ARDC complaint procedures that it wasn't clear the attorney would be notified of the allegations in the complaint. Thus, the Board dismissed the appeal and Marinov sought judicial review.

II. Analysis

Marinov first argues that the Board erred in finding that he received adequate notice of his August 3, 2010 hearing. His argument is based on the fact that he did not receive personal service. He concedes his attorney re- ceived notice but argues that counsel failed to reasonably inform him of the hearing. Second, Marinov argues that the Board erred in finding that he failed to satisfy the Lozada requirements for raising ineffective assistance of counsel. This argument is based on Marinov's filing of an ARDC complaint, which he claims includes a provi- sion for notification to the attorney. Third, Marinov argues that former counsel's false statements and repre- sentations to the IJ at the hearing constitute per se inef- fective assistance of counsel and justify reopening the proceedings even if Marinov did not comply with Lozada.

We have jurisdiction to review the Board's decision upholding the denial of a motion to reopen removal proceedings. Kucana v. Holder, 130 S. Ct. 827, 831 (2010); Lin Xing Jiang v. Holder, 639 F.3d 751, 754 (7th Cir. 2011). We review the decision for an abuse of discretion, up- holding it unless it was made without rational explana- tion, inexplicably departed from established policies, or rested on an impermissible basis. Lin Xing Jiang, 639 F.3d at 754.

"Any alien who, after written notice . . . has been pro-vided to . . . [his] counsel of record, does not attend a proceeding under this section, shall be ordered removed in absentia" if it is established that written notice was provided and the alien is removable. 8 U.S.C. ยง 1229a(b)(5)(A). Such an order may be rescinded if the alien files a motion to reopen and establishes that he did ...


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