Valparaiso University Law School Immigration Clinic Argues Before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals

Caleb Detweiler and Josué Espinosa

Caleb Detweiler and Josué Espinosa

On April 11, third-year Valparaiso University Law School student Josué Espinosa argued the case of Silais v. Sessions before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals as part of his work for the Immigration Clinic. The case involved a Haitian asylum seeker who was threatened at gunpoint, repeatedly beaten, hacked with a machete, and whose family was pistol-whipped and beaten with ropes due to the client’s political activities.

The appeal concerned the question of whether an Immigration Judge violated the Immigration and Nationality Act and the client’s constitutional right to due process by refusing to consider certain evidence. At the client’s first hearing, the Immigration Judge questioned the client extensively about how he obtained documents that corroborated his story, but when he submitted an affidavit before his continued hearing from the man who obtained the documents for him from Haiti, the Immigration Judge refused to allow it into evidence because it was late. She later denied the case in part because the client failed to submit the very same statement she refused to allow into evidence.

Espinosa and his partner Caleb Detweiler drafted the opening and reply brief and represented the client at the oral argument. Espinosa ably fielded difficult questions from a three-judge panel consisting of Chief Judge Diane Wood and Judges Frank Easterbrook and Joel Flaum. Few lawyers have an opportunity to argue before the prestigious Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and Espinosa and Detweiler provided exceptional representation to their client before one of the country’s highest courts.
I was humbled to argue before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals as it is a rare opportunity, especially for a law student. The 15-minute argument seemed to go by in only a matter of a couple minutes. The experience provided me with valuable insights into the decision making process of a Federal Appellate Judge. (Josué Espinosa, 3L)