Attorney General Finds No Right To Effective Counsel in Removal Proceedings
In Matter of Compean, Attorney General Michael Mukasey found on January 7, 2009, that noncitizens have no constitutional right to an attorney in immigration removal proceedings. Although they have a statutory privilege to retain a lawyer, if that counsel is ineffective, they have no recourse, the Attorney General said. The decision notes that the Board of Immigration Appeals or an immigration judge may reopen removal proceedings in extraordinary cases based on egregious error by a lawyer, accredited representative, or nonlawyer that the person erroneously believed to be a lawyer.
The decision (PDF) provides a framework and a list of documentation for filing a claim of deficient performance of counsel. The American Immigration Lawyers Association, which filed an amicus brief, is following this case and posting updates at http://www.ailf.org/lac/lac-ineffective.shtml.