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IJ's Denial of Motion for Continuance: Reversed

Usubakunov v. Garland Court: US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Docket: 18-72974, Opinion Date: November 1, 2021. Detained, separated from his family, speaking no English, and having diligently pursued representation, asylum applicant Usubakunov finally connected with a pro bono attorney at Catholic Charities who agreed to represent him. When that attorney was unavailable on the date of his merits hearing, Usubakunov requested his first continuance of that hearing. The IJ denied a continuance, leaving Usubakunov unassisted. The Ninth Circuit remanded. Under these circumstances, the IJ’s refusal to grant a continuance of Usubakunov’s merits hearing deprived him of his right to counsel and was an abuse of discretion because it was tantamount to a denial of counsel. The immigrant illustrated diligence, not bad faith, coupled with very difficult barriers. This was not a case of indefinite continuances, nor was it a case where Usubakunov was trying to game the system.

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