Trials and Immigrations

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Cost: another $5,000.

Capule began making payments that eventually totaled $2,500, but he says Marinoff never filed the suit. "Every time I asked about the case, he said he's going to file," Capule says.

But Capule wasn't wearing an orange jumpsuit yet. Things really started to go bad for him at the end of the 1998, when he left the country for a month to visit his mother, who was ill. And unless an immigrant has received an exemption from the government, leaving the country causes him to forfeit his green-card application. Capule says Marinoff obtained this exemption but failed to tell him that it meant the loss of certain rights, including the right to bail out of jail should he find himself there.

But Marinoff says his clients always know where they stand. "I inform all my clients so clearly, so specifically, that that's not even an issue," he says.

Capule made the trip anyway. Then his wife withdrew her petition to sponsor his green card. Yet, Capule claims, Marinoff sent him in to renew his work permit, even though without the petition and with his marriage on the rocks, he was virtually ineligible. At the work-permit review, INS inspectors asked Capule if he was living with his wife. Capule said they had split back in 1997.

Soon afterward, he was in custody -- and because of his trip to the Philippines, he was unable to bond out -- and was facing deportation. He says Marinoff was asking $3,000 to clean up the latest mess. Capule's new girlfriend, a bank employee, shelled out $1,300 -- bringing the grand total up to $8,800 -- for Marinoff.

Marinoff did nothing, Capule says. "For one month, he didn't call me, didn't talk to me. It was like he didn't care."

"I have a lot to say, but I can't say a word," Marinoff says of Capule's case, again citing attorney-client confidentiality. "Whatever problems he has have nothing to do with any representation he's had."

Marinoff has also run afoul of trial attorneys and a judge at the INS for filing documents and exhibits late and for frequently requesting continuances that drag cases on and on. On August 10, INS attorney Dani Lisa Page appeared in court twice in one day, first to handle a case by Marinoff, then to handle a case brought by his partner, Lance Wiessenberger. In Marinoff's case, documents from his clients were filed with the court only four days before a hearing; the court requests that documents be filed fifteen days ahead of time.

When Judge David Cordova asked Marinoff what the problem was, Marinoff responded:

"Your Honor, we had trouble getting all the exhibits together within the fifteen days. But we got them in as early as we can, and I apologize that we couldn't get it in on time, but some of it was out of our hands."

Page was not convinced. She blasted Marinoff's documents for being incomplete as well as late. "This counsel has been representing these folks for a year now. There's been no progress as to why it's taken a year to get documents."

Nevertheless, Cordova agreed to hold the case over until next March. That same afternoon, Page was back in Cordova's courtroom, this time against Wiessenberger. The previous January, Wiessenberger had asked Cordova for a continuance, and when an obviously irritated judge asked him why he should consent, Wiessenberger responded, "I don't have a specific, consuming reason to give you, other than [the clients] live far away and we've had some things we've been dealing with with them...Call it attorney preparation or what have you, we just haven't had enough time to tie this thing together in a nice, neat bow."

Cordova reluctantly agreed to continue the case, telling the court, "I won't continue it again."

Wiessenberger had filed documents the day of the hearing, which meant Page had no time to review them. "The Service is opposed to the documents being submitted into evidence," Page told Cordova.

"Well, I was going to anticipate Ms. Page's position and apologize, as I've done in the past," Wiessenberger answered. "This happens. As you know, it's not intentional...I frankly am not ready to proceed on this case myself. I have not reviewed the documents." Again he requested a continuance.

"It seems inappropriate that the courts should continue to condone the behavior that happens from this particular office," Page responded. "The entire day has been set aside for one office. The entire day has been blown away because the documents have not been submitted correctly."

Cordova then chastised Wiessenberger: "Let me tell you what the problem is, and the problem's beginning to resurrect itself all the time...This hearing has been continued on two prior occasions for purposes of getting ready, and that bothers me."

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T.R. Witcher