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Complaints Against Immigration Attorneys Print E-mail

H
ughes & Bentzen was asked to represent an immigration attorney in a complaint brought by his former client to Bar Counsel of the District of Columbia.  The complainant alleged that the immigration attorney had not diligently and professionally represented him, an immigrant to the United States from Cameroon.  Hughes & Bentzen partner, Michael Bentzen, was retained to present the defense against those allegations.

In addressing complaints, the District of Columbia Bar Counsel requires a thorough review of the facts, including a detailed recitation of everything the attorney did and why.  Frequently, an immigration client, who fails to persuade the immigration authorities of the merits of his case and is faced with removal from the United States, has no other recourse than to allege that his attorney did not do an effective job.  However, in immigration law matters an appeal from removal from the United States based on ineffective assistance of counsel, must include proof that “a complaint has been filed with appropriate disciplinary authorities.”  See Matter of Lozada, 19 I&N Dec. 637, Interim Decision (BIA) 3059, 1988 WL 235454 (BIA).   Notwithstanding that such complaints are routinely filed in immigration representation cases, the District of Columbia, unlike other jurisdictions, continues to treat each case as unique and is rigorous in demanding proof from the attorney whose name, reputation, time, and money are placed in jeopardy.  Other jurisdictions, such as Maryland, look at such complaints with a more skeptical eye and, unless there appears to be valid, specific and substantial claim of professional misconduct, i.e., documented failure to appear at a hearing, may limit the defense necessary to set the misconduct complaint aside.

In this case, Mr. Bentzen was able to demonstrate to D.C. Bar Counsel that his client had done everything that could have been done professionally to protect the immigrant’s interests.


In this case, Mr. Bentzen was able to demonstrate to D.C. Bar Counsel that his client had done everything that could have been done professionally to protect the immigrant’s interests.   The matter was ultimately resolved with no finding of misconduct by the attorney.

District of Columbia immigration lawyers, who are admitted to other bars, may want to consider the need to preserve their District of Columbia Bar membership.  Immigration attorneys are not required to hold any specific bar admissions in order to appear before the immigration courts and agencies of the United States.  As professional misconduct complaints in unsuccessful immigration cases are often filed as a matter of course, being a member of a bar of the District of Columbia could require much more expensive defense work to avoid liability.  Another consideration for attorneys representing immigration clients is that a claim could be filed years after the immigration matter is concluded.  Therefore, immigration attorneys should be very careful to document and to preserve the file regarding the attorney/client relationship, all financial transactions, all communications with the client and all that is done or not done in the matter.  



 
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