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In re Disciplinary Action Against Howe

843 N.W.2d 325 (2014)

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In re Disciplinary Action Against Howe

North Dakota Supreme Court

843 N.W.2d 325 (2014)

Facts

Attorney Henry Howe (defendant) represented the Camachos in deportation proceedings. The Camachos were undocumented Mexican nationals who had lived in the United States for over 20 years and had one child who was a Mexican citizen and four who were American citizens. To prevent removal under federal immigration law, Howe had to show removal would cause one of the Camachos’ American children exceptional and extremely unusual hardship. The immigration judge told Howe he needed significant documentation, including detailing one child’s learning disability, and Howe received an information sheet instructing how to gather the required “biometrics,” including fingerprints and personal information. Six months later, the court held a merits hearing, but Howe submitted only the children’s school records and called only the Camachos as witnesses. The judge gave Howe 30 days to augment the Camachos’ application and reiterated what documentation Howe needed. The Camachos missed the rescheduled hearing, evidently because Howe had not told them about it, and the judge again rescheduled for nine months later. After Howe resubmitted duplicate documents, the court again rescheduled for another six months later. Howe submitted some articles about violence in Mexico and had the hearing rescheduled again for almost a year later. Howe obtained letters from the children’s teachers and a case manager and appeared with the Camachos at the rescheduled hearing, but the judge postponed ruling because an interpreter was not available and requested written submissions and arguments within two weeks. Again Howe failed to submit the requested materials. Seven months later the judge ordered the Camachos deported. The Camachos fired Howe, hired another lawyer, and appealed. When the disciplinary board (plaintiff) initiated proceedings against Howe, he blamed his failure to timely collect biometrics on calendaring errors and the Camachos’ having missed a hearing on a miscommunication due to a change in office staff and lacking an interpreter. Howe even claimed his failures were part of a deliberate strategy to keep the Camachos in the country as long as possible. The hearing panel report concluded that Howe nonetheless violated his professional obligations under the ethics rules. Howe appealed, objecting to the report.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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