SAN FRANCISCO – LAWFUEL – Law Firm Announcements – The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) and several major Bay Area law firms including Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, Cooley Godward Kronish LLP and Morrison and Forester LLP, have announced the creation of a mentoring program that will support law firm pro bono lawyers working on immigration cases, including those referred by the Ninth Circuit Pro Bono Program. The funding for the first year of the mentoring program was donated by Cooley, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Latham & Watkins LLP, Morrison, O’Melveny & Myers LLP, Orrick, Reed Smith LLP, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP and the Van Loben Sels/Rembe Rock Foundation. Attorneys from Orrick, Cooley and Morrison were instrumental in aiding the ILRC in developing and formulating the program.
The Ninth Circuit Pro Bono Program appoints attorneys for pro se parties in civil appeals so that cases are decided more equitably and efficiently. Since 2002, the Ninth Circuit’s immigration caseload has risen dramatically in response to the Department of Justice directing the then Immigration and Naturalization Service to clear a backlog of appeals pending before the agency’s Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The BIA’s rapid resolution of appeals, frequently by denial of residency, resulted in a staggering increase in appeals to the federal court. Specifically in 2001, the Ninth Circuit received over 950 immigration appeals, amounting to nine percent of the court’s caseload. In 2007, there were over 4,000 new immigration cases out of a total of 12,892 new filings in the court, which means that immigration cases represented over 30 percent of the total filings in the court. These figures represent a significant increase since 2001. Additionally, the percentage of these immigration appeals cases filed pro se remains consistently in the 35% to 40% range.
The Ninth Circuit has far more immigration cases than any other circuit. From 2000-2005, over 50 percent of all circuit court immigration cases were in the Ninth Circuit. This was over 250 percent more cases than the next busiest circuit, the Second Circuit.
This newly created mentoring program arose out of a working group formed through the Ninth Circuit’s Lawyer Representatives Coordinating Committee to address the Court’s immigration caseload crisis. “The role of this program will be to provide expert technical advice, assistance and training to pro bono lawyers handling immigration cases in the Ninth Circuit and before the BIA and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services,” said ILRC Executive Director Eric Cohen.
Rene Kathawala, pro bono counsel from Orrick said, “Participating law firms will benefit greatly from the comprehensive mentoring that this position will provide on immigration matters such as motions to reopen, jurisdictional bars, asylum, Violence Against Women Act, U-Visa applications, citizenship, ineffective assistance of counsel issues, due process issues and the immigration consequences of criminal convictions.”
As part of this program, the ILRC will organize MCLE trainings for potential pro bono lawyers and existing pro bono lawyers on immigration law and Ninth Circuit procedural issues and encourage law firms to increase their involvement with pro bono immigration cases. This will allow firms to develop a broader proficiency in all areas of immigration law, which over time, will allow the private bar to more significantly address the Ninth Circuit’s caseload crisis and enable litigants to speedier resolution of cases, including appeals.
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP is a global law firm with more than 1,000 lawyers in North America, Europe and Asia. The firm focuses on litigation, complex and novel finance and innovative corporate transactions. Orrick clients include Fortune 100 companies, major industrial and financial corporations, commercial and investment banks, high-growth companies, governmental entities, start-ups and individuals. The firm’s 18 offices are located in Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Milan, Moscow, New York, Orange County, Pacific Northwest, Paris, Rome, Sacramento, San Francisco, Shanghai, Silicon Valley, Taipei, Tokyo and Washington, D.C.
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