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Seattle judge: Nonprofit lawyers can keep helping in immigration cases

When the Department of Justice ordered a group of Seattle lawyers to stop helping in some immigration cases, the lawyers fought back.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard Jones sided with the lawyers again in a nationwide ruling.


In immigration court, most people facing deportation do not have an attorney, but sometimes they can get limited legal advice or assistance with forms, like an asylum application.

The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, or NWIRP, is a nonprofit group that helps out in hundreds of these cases every year.  

Then, a few months ago, the Department of Justice ordered NWIRP to cease and desist this limited service.

Judge Jones in Seattle has blocked this DOJ order now for a  second time.

Matt Adams is with NWIRP.

Adams: “What this means is that we get to keep helping hundreds who otherwise don’t have legal representation.”

The DOJ says a 2008 rule requires attorneys to sign on for the full case, as a way to hold lawyers accountable.

Adams said the DOJ is using a new interpretation of the rule. And that it could block legal help for thousands of immigrants every year.

Adams: "It has a dramatic impact all across the country. Over 30 organizations and firms have issued declarations, talking about how the government’s cease and desist order would create havoc with the services they’re providing around the country."

Jones’s ruling allows nonprofit groups nationwide to continue these limited legal services.

With his ruling, Jones said the cease and desist order raises constitutional questions about freedom of speech. And it will remain on hold while the lawsuit continues.

Year started with KUOW: 2006