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Habeas, EAJA Fee Victory in Colorado: Viruel Arias v. Choate

August 03, 2023 (1 min read)

Michael Karlik, Colorado Politics, Aug. 2, 2023

"A federal judge has determined the government was unjustified in its fight to keep a woman locked up in an Aurora immigrant detention center while her deportation case proceeded.  U.S. District Court Judge Charlotte N. Sweeney ordered the federal government last September to hold a hearing to determine whether Brenda Viruel Arias should be released from custody. Sweeney found the circumstances of Viruel Arias' 14-month confinement required a bond hearing to avoid infringing on her constitutional right to due process.  Shortly afterward, an immigration judge permitted Viruel Arias' release after the government failed to prove she should remain behind bars.  Viruel Arias' lawyers then requested $22,601 in attorney fees from the government. Under federal law, victorious parties in civil cases against the government may receive attorney fees if, among other things, the government's position was not "substantially justified."  On July 12, Sweeny agreed the government was not substantially justified in resisting a release hearing for Viruel Arias. In recent years, she observed, federal judges in Colorado have been sympathetic to non-citizens' claims of unconstitutional confinement where the detention has exceeded one year. The government, as a party those cases, was aware of the judiciary's attitude toward prolonged detention.  "(T)hey do not justify why they did not follow a clear legal trend," Sweeney wrote."

[Hats off to Conor Gleason and Laura Lunn!]