Mata v. Lynch - Supreme Court

Equitable Tolling of the Motion to Reopen Deadline


March 1, 2015

By statute, noncitizens who have been ordered removed have the right to file one motion to reopen. 8 U.S.C. § 1229a(c)(7)(A). In most cases, these statutory motions to reopen are subject to strict filing deadlines. See 8 U.S.C. §§ 1229a(c)(7)(C)(i), (b)(5)(C)(i). However, as nine courts of appeals have recognized, the deadlines are subject to equitable tolling, a long-recognized principle through which courts can waive the application of certain non-jurisdictional statutes of limitations where a plaintiff was diligent but nonetheless unable to comply with the filing deadline. Several courts have also recognized that the numerical limitation on motions to reopen is subject to tolling. The Council continues to advocate in the remaining courts of appeals for recognition that that the motion to reopen deadlines are subject to equitable tolling and, with the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers' Guild (NIPNLG), has filed amicus briefs in the Fourth, Fifth and Eleventh Circuits.

The Supreme Court granted reivew in one of these cases, Mata v. Lynch. Petitioner Noel Mata sought equitable tolling of the deadline to file a motion to reopen based upon ineffective assistance of counsel. After the BIA denied his request, the Fifth Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to review the decision. Mr. Mata sought review by the Supreme Court, arguing that the Fifth Circuit erred in holding that it has no jurisdiction. The Council, AILA, and NIPNLG, represented by the law firm of Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzeli & Pratt, P.A., submitted an amicus brief in support of Mr. Mata. The brief explains the time-consuming process that noncitizens facing removal must go through to make an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. It also presents the stories of several immigrants whose requests for tolling of reopening deadlines originally were denied by the BIA, but eventually were granted after review by a federal court of appeals. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Fifth Circuit. Mata v. Lynch, 135 S. Ct. 2150

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