As part of the Boston College Ninth Circuit Appellate Program, Yara Kass-Gergi ’17 and Katie Horigan ’17 successfully represented their client Julio Villavicencio at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California. The Court issued a published decision that restored a green card to Mr. Villavicencio, now 41 years old, who had been living in the United States since he was two years old. The DHS had put him in proceedings based on a misdemeanor offense of conspiring to possess drugs, the immigration judge ordered him deported for that offense, and the DHS executed the order while the case was at the Ninth Circuit, returning him to Mexico.
The Court agreed with the students’ arguments that this offense should not have immigration consequences. It held that the state laws at issue were both over broad and indivisible.
“Yara and Katie were incredible advocates for their client,” said BC Law Professor Kari Hong, founder and supervisor of the clinic. “They spent many hours researching the history of conspiracy law and the peculiarities of Nevada’s conspiracy offense and drug schedules to formulate their arguments.” In addition, Hong noted that BC law librarian Karen Breda was helpful in locating obscure jury instructions that were critical in developing a winning argument.
Both Kass-Gergi and Horigan, third-year students when arguing the case to the Court, have since graduated. They found the experience of arguing a federal case to be a remarkable opportunity. “I’m incredibly happy for Julio and many others who will benefit from this now,” Horigan said. “Impact litigation is amazing.”
A number of local practitioners, clinic alumni, and attorneys from around the country helped moot the students. In addition, the Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe law firm filed an amicus brief on behalf of a dozen organizations supporting Mr. Villaviencio.
The Ninth Circuit is the only federal court in the country that schedules a case to be briefed and argued by law students in one academic calendar year. Its jurisdiction includes nine states and accounts for over 40 percent of the nation’s immigration cases. The Boston College Ninth Circuit Program clinic has represented eight cases in the past four years. Its focus is on representing non-citizens with criminal convictions to restore proportionality and common-sense to immigration law. BC Law students have won in six cases and argued three published decisions. The clinic will argue two more cases this April in San Francisco.