The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] 8-1 Monday in Mata v. Lynch [SCOTUSblog materials] that a federal appeals court has jurisdiction to review the Board of Immigration Appeals’ (BIA) rejection of an alien’s motion to reopen his or her case. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that it had no jurisdiction to review petitioner’s request that the BIA equitably toll the 90-day deadline on his motion to reopen as a result of ineffective assistance of counsel under 8 CFR § 1003.2(c)(2) [text]. In an opinion by Justice Elena Kagan, the Supreme Court reversed:
An alien ordered to leave the country has a statutory right to file a motion to reopen his removal proceedings. … If immigration officials deny that motion, a federal court of appeals has jurisdiction to consider a petition to review their decision. … Notwithstanding that rule, the court below declined to take jurisdiction over such an appeal because the motion to reopen had been denied as untimely. We hold that was error.
Justice Clarence Thomas filed a dissenting opinion.
The court heard arguments in the case in April after granting certiorari [JURIST reports] in January. Petitioner Noel Reyes Mata is a Mexican citizen who entered the US unlawfully and was later convicted of assault. He was ordered removed, but his attorney failed to file a timely appeal. Mata argued that his case should be reopened beyond the 90 day time limit because of his attorney’s failure to perform his duties.