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Attorney General v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

January 23, 2019

DIEULAND JEAN LOUIS, Petitioner
v.
ATTORNEY GENERAL UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent

          Submitted Under Third Circuit L.A.R. 34.1(a) on November 14, 2018

          On Petition for Review of a Decision of the United States Department of Justice Board of Immigration Appeals (Agency No. A206-596-150) Immigration Judge: Honorable Ramin Rastegar

          Raymond S. Vivino Vivino & Vivino Counsel for Petitioner

          Tim Ramnitz Jennifer A. Singer John D. Williams United States Department of Justice Office of Immigration Litigation Counsel for Respondent

          Before: GREENAWAY, JR., SHWARTZ, and BIBAS, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          BIBAS, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         A non-lawyer "immigration expert" advised Dieuland Jean Louis that he could miss his asylum hearing without consequence. I App. A6-7. So he did. But the "immigration expert" was wrong-and an immigration judge relied on Jean Louis's absence to order his removal in absentia. Id.

         Jean Louis now contends that we should reopen that order because the non-lawyer's advice qualifies as an exceptional circumstance. But that is not the law. Exceptional circumstances must be grave and beyond the applicant's control. And holding the hearing without Jean Louis did not violate due process because he had the opportunity to attend. He chose not to. So we will deny his petition for review.

         I. Background

         Jean Louis, a native and citizen of Haiti, entered the United States illegally. He later applied for asylum. While that application was pending, he married a U.S. citizen and sought citizenship on that basis.

         Jean Louis received a notice, dated August 2016, explaining that he had to appear for an asylum hearing in June 2017. The notice made clear that the immigration judge could hold the hearing and remove Jean Louis if he did not attend.

         But Jean Louis, who does not speak English, wanted advice. So he went to Gustave Thermitus. Thermitus is associated with Caracol Financial. He is not a lawyer and does not belong to a legal organization. Still, Jean Louis thought Thermitus was a lawyer.

         But Thermitus did not hold himself out as a lawyer. And Jean Louis does not claim that Thermitus intentionally misled him. According to Jean Louis, Thermitus held himself out as "an immigration expert that performed other work as well." II App. A6.

         Jean Louis asked Thermitus about his notice. Thermitus told him he did not have to go to the hearing because he had another path ...


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