The Supreme Court today decided Mata v. Lynch.  In simple terms the ruling means that when an immigrant’s immigration lawyer is ineffective, and the immigrant wants to reopen their case after the 90-day deadline to do so, the court of appeals had jurisdiction to consider whether the ninety-day deadline is subject to equitable tolling — and, if so, whether they are entitled to such relief. It is not solely within the Board of Immigration Appeals “sole discretion” under their sua sponte power.

While the 9th Circuit has held they had jurisdiction to review such matters, not all circuits followed this rule. Thus, the Supreme Court has made it clear it is the law now opening the door to immigrants in Louisiana, Mississppi and Texas. We currently have three issues at the 9th circuit that focuses in on this issue and requests the federal court of appeals to go further into its analysis to determine to what extent an immigrant must go to prove they have diligently acted in their matter to be able to preserve their right to reopen their case past the 90-day deadline.   We had been closely monitoring the status of this Supreme Court decision.  There are an extensive amount of cases could potentially be reopened beyond the 90 day deadline by the appellate courts and feel the victory was imminent in light of the fact that the Office of the Solicitor General had already conceded that the Fifth Circuit was on the wrong end of circuit split.

Justice Kagan delivered the opinion of the Court.  The Court ruled that the Fifth Circuit erred in declining to take jurisdiction over Mata’s appeal. A court of appeals has jurisdiction to review the BIA’s rejection of an alien’s motion to reopen. (citing Kucana v. Holder, 558 U. S. 233, 253). Nothing about that jurisdiction changes where the Board rejects a motion as untimely, or when it rejects a motion requesting equitable tolling of the time limit. That an alien ordered to leave the country has a statutory right to file a motion to reopen his removal proceedings. If immigration officials deny that motion, a federal court of appeals has jurisdiction to consider a petition to review their decision. Notwithstanding that rule, the court below declined to take jurisdiction over such an appeal because the motion to reopen had been denied as untimely. The Supreme Court held that was error.

The court heard arguments in the case in April after granting certiorari [JURIST reports] in January. Petitioner Noel Reyes Mata is a Mexican citizen who entered the US unlawfully and was later convicted of assault. He was ordered removed, but his attorney failed to file a timely appeal. Mata argued that his case should be reopened beyond the 90 day time limit because of his attorney’s failure to perform his duties.

All but one of the Justices joined Justice Kagan in the 8-1 final opinion tally.  Justice Clarence Thomas filed a dissenting opinion.  In a three-page dissent, Justice Thomas took issue with the majority’s assumption that Mata’s original claim for relief before the BIA was clearly a statutory motion to reopen, and not, as the amicus argued the Fifth Circuit had construed it, an invitation to the BIA to act sua sponte. Thus, although he agreed with the majority that the Fifth Circuit erred in applying a “categorical rule that all motions to reopen that would be untimely under [the relevant statute] must be construed as motions for sua sponte reopening of the proceedings,” he would have remanded the matter to the Fifth Circuit to consider, on a case-specific basis, whether Mata’s original motion to reopen is better understood as a statutory claim (over which the Fifth Circuit clearly would have appellate jurisdiction) or an invitation to the BIA to act on its own authority (over which, at least in Justice Thomas’s view, the Fifth Circuit would lack appellate jurisdiction).

Source: NY Times