January 22, 2021

Munger, Tolles & Olson Achieves Victory for Pro Bono Client in Asylum Appeal

Munger, Tolles & Olson achieved a victory in the Ninth Circuit on behalf of a pro bono immigration client in a decision issued on December 24, 2020.

When Erica Martinez* fled her home country of El Salvador to escape gang members who threatened her life, she did not expect the motives of the gang members to be called into question by the U.S. Government. But the Immigration Court denied Ms. Martinez’s application for asylum on the grounds that the gang members were acting solely on the basis of economic motives, and the Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed that decision.

Munger Tolles attorneys Joe Lee and Jeremy Lawrence represented Ms. Martinez pro bono in the Ninth Circuit.

Mr. Lawrence successfully argued to the Ninth Circuit panel that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is required to consider the “mixed motives” of the individuals who persecute an asylum seeker, and that the BIA failed to do that here. The Ninth Circuit agreed, finding that the BIA did not give proper consideration of the gang’s other motives, which were tied to Ms. Martinez’s gender and her political opinion (which was based on her opposition to the gang). The court sent the case back to the Board of Immigration Appeals for reconsideration.

Joe Lee is a litigation partner whose practice focuses on complex civil litigation including wage and hour class actions, labor and employment disputes, antitrust litigation and consumer class actions. He co-chairs the firm’s Pro Bono Immigration Practice Group, and serves on Human Rights First’s Board of Advocates and the Los Angeles Advisory Committee for Kids in Need of Defense (KIND).

Jeremy Lawrence is a litigation partner whose representations have included coverage disputes involving insurance policies, construction and real property disputes, shareholder derivative suits and corporate governance disputes, and matters involving administrative agencies at the federal and state level. His pro bono practice involves various appellate matters (including a number of amicus briefs to the Supreme Court) and multiple representations of individuals pursuing asylum.

*Name changed to protect the client.