Below are representative pro bono matters that lawyers have worked on, including asylum proceedings and work
with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In 2008, the pro bono program earned a major step forward for a client seeking asylum in the United States.
Thompson Hine's pro bono program has been trying to reopen the asylum proceedings for a gentleman from Rwanda
so he will not have to be deported back to the country that killed members of the political party with which his
family was previously aligned. Our last action in this effort was the filing of a habeas petition in May 2005
on behalf of Ishema Umuhoza. The government responded with an argument that the habeas petition should be converted
to a petition for review and transferred to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals under the REAL ID Act. Thompson
Hine's team argued that to do so would violate the Constitution's Suspension Clause. Three years later, Thompson
Hine's argument has been accepted by the Magistrate Judge assigned to the matter.
Ishema's flight out of Rwanda began in 1994 with the assassination of former President Habyalimana. Ishema's
family fled Rwanda at that time because his parents were diplomats of the slain President. In their effort to flee,
eleven-year-old Ishema became separated from his family. In a refugee camp, he connected with a family friend, Cecile.
Cecile brought Ishema with her and her son to the United States where they sought asylum. Cecile identified Ishema
as her nephew and instructed him to never reveal who his parents were.
The U.S. immigration judge ruled that Cecile's political ties did not warrant asylum protection in the U.S.
Because Ishema was believed to be her nephew, the judge also denied him asylum. Now, Ishema wants his petition for
asylum to be reopened so that his eligibility for asylum can be determined in light of his true political ties to
the former government. The REAL ID Act, though, does not allow this. It prohibits the federal courts from remanding
with an order to consider new evidence and it also eliminates habeas review. Thus, under the REAL ID Act, there is
no judicial avenue for Ishema to present the new evidence of his family's ties to the former Rwandan government. For
this reason, the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation determined that the REAL ID Act's application in this
case is an unconstitutional violation of the Suspension Clause. The government has not yet responded to the Report
and Recommendation, which finds the REAL ID Act unconstitutional in this matter and creates hope for Ishema to finally
have a fair determination on his request for asylum.
The team that briefed this matter included Scott King, Sarah Flannery,
and Thompson Hine alums Dena Kobasic and Sam Rubin.
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Sixth Circuit Criminal Appeals
The following matters are described by the lawyers involved with each case:
"Participating in Thompson Hine's Sixth Circuit pro bono criminal appeals program was one of the most rewarding
experiences of my career thus far. After assisting with the drafting of three pro bono appellate briefs in my first
three years at the firm, I was given my own matter in my fourth year of practice. I represented the appellee, who had
secured his release from Michigan state prison by drafting a successful habeas corpus petition. During the drafting
of the appellate brief, I communicated extensively with the client and supervised and collaborated with partners and
associates with whom I did not normally have the opportunity to work. I then argued the case in front of a panel of
the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. About a month later, I learned that we won, and the decision would
be published. Arguing in front of the Sixth Circuit as a fourth year associate was a great experience that I likely
would not have had in the absence of Thompson Hine's commitment to pro bono work."
"Thompson Hine was asked by the Sixth Circuit to represent Joseph Stewart, who had been convicted of first-degree
murder in Michigan in 1998. After years of appeals, his petition for a writ of habeas corpus had been denied. The
appeal of that decision was Mr. Stewart's final available legal option before serving out a mandatory life sentence.
There had been significant procedural difficulties at Mr. Stewart's 1998 trial, including the failure of Mr. Stewart's
retained trial counsel to adequately investigate potential witnesses, a legal conflict of interest caused by trial
counsel's representation of another man charged with the same crime, and trial counsel's failure to properly fill
out court paperwork for an alibi defense, leading to the exclusion of the testimony of two of Mr. Stewart's three
alibi witness. I led a Thompson Hine team in the briefing of these issues and argued the case in the Sixth Circuit's
main courtroom. Thompson Hine won reversal of the denial of Mr. Stewart's writ of habeas corpus in a 3-0 decision,
entitling Mr. Stewart to the opportunity for a fair retrial of the claims against him. It was a valuable chance to
make a real difference for a client and to help ensure that criminal defendants -- whatever their alleged
crimes -- receive fair and impartial trials with adequate legal representation."
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