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United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
December 14, 2004, Argued ; February 11, 2005, Filed
[*253] OPINION OF THE COURT
BECKER, Circuit Judge.
This appeal by Odiri Nkofi Bagot ("Bagot") from the District Court's order denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus in a deportation case requires us to inquire into the matter of "legal custody." That inquiry will inform our determination as to whether Bagot is correct that Respondents deported him to Guyana illegally, because, having been in his father's legal custody at the time the father was naturalized, he is [*254] derivatively a United States citizen. Respondents maintain that, [**2] although Bagot lived with his father in New York, a previous New York state divorce decree and form custody order left him in the legal custody of his mother, who was in Guyana at the time and had never been to the United States.
The District Court was confronted, as we are here, with the difficult question of how to define "legal custody"--but the relevant law is almost silent on that definition. Judge Becker, the author of the Opinion of the Court, believes that, as there is "no federal law of domestic relations," De Sylva v. Ballentine, 351 U.S. 570, 580, 100 L. Ed. 1415, 76 S. Ct. 974 (1956), legal custody depends on state law in the first instance. Having reviewed the New York precedents, he concludes that Bagot was not in his mother's legal custody under state law. Judges Rosenn and Nygaard would not delve into state law, but would find that no valid decree awarded custody of Bagot to his mother. The panel is unanimous, however, that under the fallback "actual uncontested custody" standard of the immigration laws, see Matter of M--, 3 I. & N. Dec. 850 (BIA 1950), Bagot was in the legal custody of his father and thus obtained derivative citizenship. We [**3] will therefore reverse the order of the District Court and remand with directions to issue the writ.
The Opinion of the Court in this case consists of Parts I, II, III.A, III.B.2, IV, and V of this Opinion. In the remainder of Part III.B, and in Part III.C, Judge Becker, writing only for himself, explores New York's law of legal custody. Although, as will appear, he finds that law inconclusive, he believes that this threshold exercise is compelled both by the reasoning of our sister Courts of Appeals and by basic principles of federalism.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
398 F.3d 252 *; 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 2360 **
ODIRI NKOFI BAGOT, Appellant v. JOHN ASHCROFT; JAMES ZIGLAR; KENNETH ELWOOD
Prior History: [**1] On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. No. 03-cv-00309). District Judge: Honorable Yvette Kane.
Disposition: Reversed and remanded.
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Civil Procedure, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, Final Judgment Rule, Criminal Law & Procedure, Habeas Corpus, Jurisdiction, Immigration Law, Judicial Proceedings, General Overview, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Judicial Review, De Novo Standard of Review, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Preservation for Review, Types of US Citizenship, Derivative Naturalization, Judicial Review, Naturalization, Administrative Proceedings, Examinations & Investigations, Citizenship by Descent, Miranda Rights, Self-Incrimination Privilege, Custodial Interrogation, Family Law, Child Custody, Jurisdiction, In Rem & Personal Jurisdiction, Custody Awards, Standards, In Rem Actions, True In Rem Actions, State Court Review, Custody Enforcement, Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act, Dissolution & Divorce, Custody Modification, Preclusion of Judgments, Full Faith & Credit, Enforcement of Judgments, Judgments, Postconviction Proceedings, Clemency, Grounds for Deportation & Removal, National Security Risk, Sentencing, Deportation & Removal, Changed Circumstances, Deportation & Removal, Relief From Deportation & Removal, Postconviction Remedies, Marital Termination & Spousal Support