O’Melveny Wins Important Pro Bono Victory in Ninth Circuit

September 01, 2017


Los Angeles—September 1, 2017—O’Melveny secured an important win for a pro bono client facing deportation when, in a published opinion, a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel overturned rulings by the Board of Immigration Appeals and an immigration judge.

Client Edwin Campos Mejia, a Guatemalan immigrant who was seeking asylum and relief under the UN’s Convention Against Torture, has a history of serious mental illness, including bipolar disorder and major depression with psychotic features. During his 2013 deportation hearing, he testified that he’d stopped taking his medication and was feeling unwell.

Despite his testimony, an immigration judge ordered him deported based on past DUI convictions, without first determining whether he was fit to undergo a hearing or whether proper safeguards were in place.

The Ninth Circuit cited the immigration judge’s failure to assess his mental competency, as well as the BIA’s decision to affirm the judge’s order without addressing that failure, which precedent requires immigration judges to do in such cases.

“The BIA abused its discretion by failing to explain why it allowed the IJ to disregard rigorous procedural requirements,” the Ninth Circuit wrote, sending the case back to the BIA for a new hearing that makes an assessment of Mejia’s mental capacity.

The O’Melveny team representing Mejia was led by partner Amy Laurendeau and associate Matthew Smock, with assistance from counsel Cynthia Merrill and summer associate Anna Williams.

About O’Melveny

O’Melveny’s clients shape markets, set precedents, and break boundaries. They are stalwarts and innovators, the names you trust, and the next big thing. And for more than a century, O’Melveny has been right beside them, punching through walls and putting up defenses to help our clients achieve their most important goals. With approximately 700 lawyers in 15 offices worldwide guided by the principles of excellence, leadership, and citizenship, we uphold a tradition of treating our clients’ challenges and opportunities as our own. What do you want to achieve? For the answers, please visit www.omm.com.


Julie Fei
O’Melveny & Myers LLP