Trials and Immigrations

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Marinoff sees such attorneys as cowards.

"I brought the first cancellation cases to Denver," says Marinoff. "When I did that, I won them. And I kept winning them." He says his success rate in cancellation cases is about 50 percent, that he has won fifteen to twenty such cases and lost the same number.

A search of 38 recent cancellation cases Marinoff has handled at the U.S. Immigration Court revealed that only ten clients were granted relief from deportation (one client was granted asylum, and nine were granted cancellation of removal). Most of his clients were either ordered removed from the United States or given voluntary departure -- a less serious order of removal in which an immigrant agrees to leave the U.S. by a set date. One case is still pending; three are on appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Washington, D.C., which sometimes reverses cancellation-of-removal cases. And sometimes a "voluntary departure" may be considered a victory, since an immigrant's record doesn't show that he was ordered deported, and he still has an opportunity to return to the States one day.

"[Marinoff is] viewed as an attorney who tends to file things at the last minute and always asks for a continuance," says Alec Revelle, administrator of Denver's immigration court, who handles about 5,000 immigration cases every year. "Things happen, but when it happens with a fair amount of frequency, it raises a flag."

"I'm not one of their most popular people," Marinoff admits.

Before entering the immigration arena, the 37-year-old Marinoff spent five years as a prosecutor with the Weld County District Attorney's Office, where he handled numerous drug cases. But then he got the bug for private practice and bought Boyle's immigration practice in June 1997. The two worked together for a few months before Boyle was suspended for two years in August 1997 for "engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, and being convicted of aiding and abetting aliens in obtaining entry into United States by willful misleading representation."

The published opinion of the Colorado Supreme Court indicates that Boyle committed transgressions with five clients. In 1991 he advised a British couple moving to the U.S. to tell immigration officials that they were visitors and not mention their intentions of working here. In 1987, a Syrian immigrant filed a petition for asylum, but Boyle, the court ruled, failed to adequately prepare for the hearing and failed to present readily available evidence supporting the asylum petition. In 1992, Boyle failed three times to correctly prepare a labor certification application for an Israeli immigrant who worked at a Jewish ministry in Aspen; that same year, he completed an application for a Brazilian client that stated his visa had expired when Boyle knew that his client had no visa. Finally, he failed to competently represent an Albanian immigrant applying for asylum, and the immigrant was deported. Boyle, who declined to speak with Westword, was ordered to pay restitution to two clients before he could be reinstated.

That mess was Marinoff's introduction to the world of immigration law, one he admits he knew little about. But in just a few years, Marinoff says, his practice has grown from a few hundred clients to roughly 1,200. And it's a particularly vulnerable group of clients: Many are here illegally, are sometimes uneducated, don't speak English or have committed crimes.

Moises Capule, for example, sits in a room at the Wackenhut Detention Center, the lockup for INS detainees, and wonders how he got there.

In February 1996, Capule came to Colorado from the Philippines. He found a job as a security screener at Denver International Airport and later found an American wife, his supervisor. The couple lived together for half a year, then married in December 1996. Wedded bliss was short, however. Capule discovered that his wife was cheating on him, so he moved out of their Westminster home in July 1997.

Things got worse when Capule's wife accused him of molesting her daughter. She took her complaints to the police, the police filed charges, and Capule went looking for a lawyer.

A friend told him about Dan Boyle. But Boyle was about to be suspended and referred Capule to Marinoff, who charged Capule $5,000 to handle the molestation defense. Capule paid him, and the charges were eventually dropped.

But Capule's wife was dissolving their marriage, and immigrants like Capule count on their spouses to file petitions sponsoring them for green cards. Without a marriage, Capule might be without a petition -- and he would suddenly be illegal. Marinoff offered to fight back by filing a "battered spouse" suit against Capule's wife, a measure designed to protect immigrants who are dependent on their spouses from being abused. Capule agreed.

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T.R. Witcher