Debevoise Receives the National Immigration Project’s 2022 Impact in the Courts Award

18 November 2022

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP has received the 2022 Impact in the Courts Award by the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild for the firm’s role in vacating the denial of a client’s request for asylum before a Ninth Circuit panel.

The client, Mr. F, is originally from Mexico and has lived and worked in the U.S. for more than 20 years, without documentation. Mr. F is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia which causes hallucinations and erratic behavior, but he is able to lead a productive life when receiving proper treatment. In 2017, following the government’s attempt to remove Mr. F from the country, he applied for asylum and related relief, arguing that he would fail to receive adequate care for his schizophrenia in Mexico and inevitably be institutionalized in a state-run facility. At his hearing, Mr. F also mentioned a brother in Mexico with similar mental health problems who had not been institutionalized. Based on this admission, Mr. F’s applications were denied, with the immigration judge reasoning that if his brother had not been persecuted despite similar mental-health issues, and neither would Mr. F if he were sent back.

Following the initial ruling, Debevoise joined the case and appealed to the Ninth Circuit. The Debevoise team argued in its brief that the immigration judge had improperly relied on Mr. F’s initial testimony in spite of his schizophrenia diagnosis, especially since his testimony was the only evidence the judge used to make his decision.

The Ninth Circuit adopted Debevoise’s arguments, concluding that in light of Mr. F’s mental-health issues, his testimony did “not qualify as substantial evidence” to support the finding that underpinned the IJ’s denial of asylum. As a result, the case will now be remanded, and Mr. F will have another opportunity to pursue asylum.

The Debevoise team included former associate Matthew Forbes, who did the oral argument before the 9th Circuit, associates Chana Zuckier, Katherine Rooney, and Jonathan Mangel, and was supervised by partner David O’Neil.