Dmitri Orlov v. Eric Holder, Jr.
OPINION filed : DENIED the petition for review, decision not for publication pursuant to local rule 206. Jeffrey S. Sutton, Circuit Judge; Jane Branstetter Stranch, Authoring Circuit Judge and Lesley Brooks Wells, U.S. District Judge, ND/OH.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION
File Name: 11a0626n.06
Aug 26, 2011
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
LEONARD GREEN, Clerk
DMITRI SERGEYEVICH ORLOV,
ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., Attorney General, )
ON PETITION FOR REVIEW OF
AN ORDER OF THE BOARD OF
Before: SUTTON and STRANCH, Circuit Judges; WELLS, District Judge.*
JANE B. STRANCH, Circuit Judge. Petitioner Dmitri Orlov seeks review of an order of
the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) denying his untimely motion to reopen removal
proceedings. Orlov contends that the BIA should have tolled the applicable limitations period due
to ineffective assistance of counsel. For the following reasons, we DENY the petition for review.
Orlov is a native and citizen of the Ukraine. He was admitted to the United States on a nonimmigrant visitor visa, which authorized him to remain until August 22, 1997. Orlov, however,
overstayed his visa. Soon after his visa expired, Orlov married a United States citizen. On
November 18, Orlov filed an application for an adjustment of status with the INS seeking permanent
The Honorable Lesley Wells, Senior District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio, sitting
Orlov v. Holder
residency based upon this marriage. On December 16, 1999, the INS denied his application,
concluding that he was ineligible for an adjustment of status because he misrepresented his
intentions for entry on his original visa application. Although his visa application “stated that the
purpose of his visit to the United States was for a ten-day athletic competition,” the INS found “no
evidence that the applicant participated in any athletic competition” and concluded that he “entered
the United States as an intending immigrant in violation of the law.”
On June 26, 2000, the INS initiated removal proceedings against Orlov by filing a Notice to
Appear based on his unauthorized presence in the United States. At some point thereafter, Orlov and
his first wife divorced. On May 11, 2001, Orlov’s second and current wife, Antonia Mukhodinova,
filed a petition for alien relative, form I-130, to establish her relationship with Orlov and help
facilitate his immigration.
The IJ held a removal hearing on April 10, 2002, which Orlov attended. Because Orlov’s
counsel was not in attendance, the IJ continued the hearing to September 13. The IJ told Orlov that
failure to appear would result in his removal from the country in the absence of extraordinary
circumstances. Both Orlov and his counsel attended the September 13 hearing, which the IJ again
continued in light of the pending I-130 form. The IJ scheduled the continued removal hearing for
April 4, 2003, reiterating to Orlov and his counsel that failure to appear would have the “severe” and
“dire consequence” of being deported. Orlov stated that he understood. At the conclusion of the
hearing, Orlov’s counsel admitted the factual allegations and conceded removability as charged.
Neither Orlov nor his counsel appeared at the April 4 hearing. Consistent with the court’s
earlier warnings, the IJ found that Orlov had “abandoned all forms of relief” by failing to appear, and
Orlov v. Holder
thus ordered Orlov deported. Orlov, through counsel, filed a motion to reopen removal proceedings
with the IJ on May 3, alleging that Orlov mistakenly thought the hearing was another day and was
responsible for giving his counsel the incorrect date. Attached to the motion were affidavits from
Orlov and Mukhodinova. Orlov declared that he was “sorry for failing to appear on April 4, 2003
due to [his] carelessness” and “prayfully request[ed] a second chance.” Mukhodinova’s affidavit
stated that they “mistakenly failed to appear on April 4, 2003, thinking the hearing was April 14,
2003.” The IJ denied the motion to reopen on May 19, finding that Orlov “acknowledge[d] receipt
of [the] Notice of hearing” and “submit[ted] no evidence of exceptional circumstance[s] to justify
failure to appear.”
Orlov, through counsel, appealed the decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals. The
appellate brief filed on Orlov’s behalf sought reopening of the removal proceedings and rescission
of the in absentia removal order based solely on Orlov’s “inadvertence and confusion” about the date
of the hearing. The BIA affirmed without opinion on May 2, 2005. Orlov’s counsel then filed a
petition for review on Orlov’s behalf with the Sixth Circuit. While the petition for review was
pending, Orlov retained new counsel who filed a motion to substitute herself for his prior counsel.
Orlov’s new counsel also successfully sought withdrawal of the petition for review previously filed
by Orlov’s former counsel.
On December 29, 2006, Orlov’s new counsel filed with the BIA a second motion to rescind
the removal order and reopen removal proceedings. Orlov submitted an affidavit declaring that his
failure to attend the removal hearing was not due to his carelessness and inadvertence (as previously
alleged), but because he was required to watch his 1 1/2-year-old daughter while his wife took her
Orlov v. Holder
son to the emergency room for an ankle injury. Mukhodinova submitted a corroborating affidavit.
Orlov requested that the BIA toll the limitations period applicable to his motion to reopen based on
his original lawyer’s ineffective assistance in failing to bring this exceptional circumstance to the IJ’s
or BIA’s attention.
The BIA denied the motion to reopen on October 9, 2009.1 The BIA concluded that equitable
tolling did not apply to excuse the untimeliness of Orlov’s motion to reopen for two reasons. First,
it concluded that Orlov did not act diligently in bringing his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel
because “he continued to employ his prior attorney and failed to seek another opinion about his
representation for approximately a year and a half after the Board’s decision” denying his first
motion to reopen. Second, it found equitable tolling unwarranted because Orlov was not “prejudiced
by prior counsel’s actions.” Id. As the BIA explained, the only relief sought by Orlov was
adjustment of status, for which he was previously found ineligible given the “misrepresentations he
made in the course of obtaining his nonimmigrant visa.” Id.
Orlov’s counsel filed a timely petition for review with this Court on October 28, 2009. The
only issue raised is the propriety of the BIA’s decision not to toll the limitations period applicable
to Orlov’s second motion to reopen removal proceedings.
For an unknown reason, the BIA never acknowledged receipt of Orlov’s motion to reopen
or the Department of Homeland Security’s response, timely filed in December 2006 and January
2007, respectively. Orlov’s counsel resubmitted the motion in February 2009. AR28.
Orlov v. Holder
We review the BIA’s denial of a motion to reopen for abuse of discretion. Allabani v.
Gonzales, 402 F.3d 668, 675 (6th Cir. 2005). An abuse of discretion can be shown where the BIA’s
denial of the motion to reopen “was made without a rational explanation, inexplicably departed from
established policies, or rested on an impermissible basis such as invidious discrimination against a
particular race or group.” Balani v. INS, 669 F.2d 1157, 1161 (6th Cir. 1982). “The Supreme Court
has made clear that reopening is discretionary with the BIA and that the BIA retains broad discretion
to grant or deny such motions.’” Alizoti v. Gonzales, 477 F.3d 448, 451 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing INS
v. Doherty, 502 U.S. 314, 323 (1992)). “However, where there is a claim of ineffective assistance
of counsel, we review this question of law de novo.” Allabani, 402 F.3d at 676.
Orlov concedes that his motion to reopen removal proceedings was untimely. He contends,
however, that the BIA should have tolled the limitations period based on ineffective assistance of
counsel. The BIA concluded that Orlov was not entitled to equitable tolling because Orlov did not
act diligently in bringing his claim of ineffective assistance and because Orlov was not prejudiced
by his former counsel’s actions. We need not consider whether Orlov was sufficiently diligent in
pursuing his claim because, for the reasons set forth below, he has failed to show the requisite
“Because a deportation proceeding is a purely civil action, an ineffective assistance of
counsel claim is reviewed under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment rather than under
the Sixth Amendment.” Denko v. INS, 351 F.3d 717, 723 (6th Cir. 2003) (internal citation,
alteration, and quotation marks omitted). We have recognized that “the doctrine of equitable tolling
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may be applied to permit reopening [of immigration proceedings] when the alien demonstrates that
she received ineffective assistance of counsel and was prejudiced thereby.” Mezo v. Holder, 615
F.3d 616, 620 (6th Cir. 2010). An alien seeking to establish prejudice in this context must show an
entitlement to the underlying relief requested. In other words, Orlov “must establish that, but for the
ineffective assistance of counsel, [Orlov] would have been entitled to continue residing in the United
States.” Sako v. Gonzales, 434 F.3d 857, 864 (6th Cir. 2006).
Orlov has failed to meet his burden of showing an entitlement to remain in the United States.
He has conceded removability, AR157, and the only underlying relief sought is an adjustment of
status pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1255.2 An adjustment of status is ultimately awarded at the discretion
of the Attorney General, id. § 1255(a), and we have generally recognized that “[t]he failure to be
granted discretionary relief does not amount to a deprivation of a liberty interest” necessary to
establish a violation of due process, Huicochea-Gomez v. INS, 237 F.3d 696, 700 (6th Cir. 2001).
Without deciding whether the discretionary nature of adjustment of status necessarily
forecloses Orlov’s claim, we nevertheless conclude that he has failed to show entitlement to that
form of relief. In 1999, the INS denied a previous adjustment application filed by Orlov because it
found that Orlov misrepresented his immigration intentions on his original visa application. AR203.
As the INS recognized, such a finding renders Orlov statutorily ineligible for adjustment of status.
See 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(6)(C)(i). Orlov has not pointed us to any evidence to challenge that finding
Orlov suggests that he might also be able to apply for voluntary departure pursuant to 8
U.S.C. § 1229c(a). Orlov, however, did not assert this argument before the BIA, and it is therefore
not preserved for review. Ramani v. Ashcroft, 378 F.3d 554, 558–59 (6th Cir. 2004).
Orlov v. Holder
or otherwise establish his admissibility. And while Orlov argues that, if removal proceedings were
reopened, he could seek a discretionary waiver of inadmissibility pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1182(i), the
mere possibility of such a waiver is insufficient to establish the requisite entitlement to remain in the
United States. Cf. Hanna v. Gonzales, 128 F. App’x 478, 481 (6th Cir. 2005) (holding that
possibility of discretionary waiver of removal under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(1)(H) was insufficient to
For the aforementioned reasons, the BIA did not abuse its discretion in declining to toll the
limitations period applicable to Orlov’s motion to reopen. Accordingly, we DENY the petition for
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