MMLA Appellate Brief Brings Remand in Asylum Case

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Attorneys at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA) have secured a remand from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), creating the chance for their client to avoid deportation and get the medical treatment he needs for a healthy and productive life.

The client sought asylum because he feared the manifestations of his mental illness would result in persecution in his country of origin. The judge denied the client’s asylum request solely on discretion, without assessing the merits of the asylum claim. The BIA rejected the judge’s denial on discretion alone, and found that in light of how the client’s country of origin treated those with this mental illness, the client belongs to a cognizable social group, and the judge must consider the client’s claim. Further, the BIA instructed the judge to consider the client’s fear of forced medical treatment, isolation, and severe economic deprivation when weighing whether the harm he fears upon return to his home country amounts to persecution. The BIA remanded the asylum case for full examination. 

MMLA’s team on the appeal included staff attorneys Eren Sutherland, Anne Carlson, Laura Wilson, and litigation director, Justin Perl. The team persuasively distinguished the client’s claim from some faulty Eight Circuit precedent, and their appellate brief creatively relied on evidence at trial, which included testimony from a professor of public health who had visited the client's county of origin numerous times and affirmed that the feared treatment is typical in that country. Read the full decision here.

CMLS Appeal Secures Habitability Defense in Eviction Cases

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On May 7th, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the arguments of attorneys at Central Minnesota Legal Services (CMLS), resulting in a published case correcting an earlier unpublished decision regarding habitability defenses in Minnesota eviction actions. 

The earlier unpublished opinion, Ellis v. Thompson, was the basis of the landlord’s argument that CMLS’s client could not raise a habitability defense to an eviction case unless the tenant followed the procedures for a rent escrow action, including giving written notice of the repair problems 14 days in advance. There is no basis for that argument in the statute, but the same landlord successfully made the argument to the Court of Appeals in 2015’s nearly identical Ellis v. Thompson

According to Elizabeth Sauer, lead attorney on the appeal, “Had the landlord’s argument prevailed this time, the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision in Fritz v. Warthen  (that a covenant in a lease for payment of rent and the statutory covenants of habitability are mutually dependent) would have been severely limited, making it impossible for many of legal aid’s clients to raise habitability defenses in eviction proceedings.”  Monday’s published decision makes clear that a Fritz defense is entirely separate from a Rent Escrow Action, and that Fritz does not contain a written notice requirement.

Staff attorney Neng Vue assisted Sauer on the case. Read the published Court of Appeals decision