A Manatt team that included partner Benjamin Shatz, counsel Michael Barkow and associate Hilary Soloff successfully represented an LGBTQIA+ woman and asylee from Honduras before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in an appeal of an immigration judge (IJ)’s and a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)’s decision to deny her pro se asylum application.
Manatt’s client, who was referred to the firm by long standing pro bono partner Public Law Center, was repeatedly harassed and extorted in Honduras by members of Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13)—a gang known to routinely terrorize members of the Honduran LGBTQIA+ community.
The IJ previously denied asylum for Manatt’s client solely on credibility grounds, and the BIA summarily approved without comment. Manatt appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit and requested a stay of her removal pending the ruling of the Court, arguing that the IJ’s adverse credibility findings were not only based on insufficient evidence, but that the judge failed to provide the required “cogent” reasons for rejecting the client’s explanations, often substituting conjecture for evidence.
In an unusual concession before the Ninth Circuit, the Department of Justice elected not to file an answering brief and instead agreed with Manatt that its client’s case should be remanded to the BIA for further review.