United States v. Dohou, No. 19-1481 (3d Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
In 1992, Dohou came from Benin to the U.S. on a visitor’s visa. He became a lawful permanent resident. More than a decade later, he was convicted of conspiring to traffic marijuana, an aggravated felony. DHS served him with a notice to appear at a date and time to be set later. After a hearing, the IJ ordered Dohou removed. He never appealed to the BIA or sought review. Agents repeatedly tried to take Dohou to the airport for removal. He resisted. Dohou unsuccessfully moved to dismiss his indictment for hindering his removal, 8 U.S.C. 1253(a)(1)(A)–(C), asserting that the absence of a date and time on the notice to appear deprived the IJ of authority to order removal and ineffective assistance of counsel. The court reasoned that Dohou had been convicted of an aggravated felony, 8 U.S.C. 1252(a)(2)(C), which stripped it of jurisdiction over his collateral attack on the removal order.
The Third Circuit vacated. A removal order that was never reviewed by an Article III judge remains subject to collateral attack in a hindering-removal prosecution based on that order; the original removal order was not “judicially decided,” 8 U.S.C. 1252(b)(7)(A). It is not enough that Dohou could have sought judicial review; section 1252(a)(2)(C), which sometimes strips jurisdiction over direct review of removal orders, does not apply to collateral attacks. Dohou’s ineffective-assistance claim requires fact-finding and the district court must decide whether a statutory- or prudential-exhaustion doctrine bars relief.