How much discretion does an attorney have when pleading on behalf of a client?
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Pedro Jesus Calla-Collado was bound by his attorney's admission to allegations in a Notice to Appear (NTA).
Calla-Collado, a native and citizen of Peru, entered the United States in 2005. In September 2007, he was arrested for driving while intoxicated. He was detained as an undocumented alien, and placed in removal proceedings.
Calla-Collado was transferred from New Jersey to Louisiana. Later, perhaps in an attempt to facilitate a change of venue, the attorney admitted the allegations in the NTA and requested a change of venue to New Jersey. Once back in the Garden State, Calla-Collado switched attorneys and filed a motion to withdraw that earlier NTA admission.
The Immigration Judge didn't rule on Calla-Collado's motions; he just ordered removal. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) upheld that decision, finding that Calla-Collado failed to establish that his previous concession to removability should be suppressed.
Calla-Collado appealed to the Third Circuit, claiming ineffective counsel. According to Calla-Collado, the admission was invalid because counsel conceded the NTA allegations without his consent.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, concluding that aliens are generally bound by their attorneys' actions, even when those actions include a tactical admission absent the alien's consent.
Although Calla-Collado alleged that he did not specifically authorize his attorney to admit the allegations in the NTA, he admitted that the concession may have been a tactical decision by his attorney to obtain the desired change of venue.
Furthermore, Calla-Collado never proffered evidence that the binding admission was untrue or incorrect.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals determined that if the admissions were accurate, Calla-Collado's removal was a foregone conclusion because he had no plausible grounds for relief from deportation.
Try to avoid similar disputes with your immigration clients. Before conceding NTA allegations in a removal proceeding, obtain your client's informed consent.
- Calla-Collado v. Attorney General (Third Circuit Court of Appeals)
- 3CBA Report: Third Circuit by the Numbers (FindLaw's Third Circuit blog)
- Third Cir. Predicts Denial, Grants Withholding of Removal Remand (FindLaw's Third Circuit blog)