The Iowa Supreme Court made a key ruling today in an immigration case. Klever Miranda and his wife Nancy Campoverde came to the U.S. from Ecuador illegally in the late 90’s. Klever was eventually able to legally work here, but in 2005 received an order to leave.
Klever contacted Des Moines attorney Michael Said for help in obtaining citizenship. Said advised Kelver and Nancy to go back to Ecuador and then have a son sponsor them once the son attained citizenship. The two took Said’s advice, but once they returned to Ecuador, they were banned from returning to the U.S. for 10 years.
The couple sued and the district court threw out the claims for emotional distress and punitive damages while awarding them $12,500 after finding Said was negligent. The Court of Appeals ruled the couple could seek punitive and emotional damages.
The Iowa Supreme Court agreed, ruling Said advised his clients to take a course he knew had no chances for success that resulted in severe emotional distress by separating them from their family. Justice Thomas Waterman wrote a dissent to the opinion.
Waterman said the opinion marks the first time an Iowa appellate court has allowed a claim for emotional distress to proceed in a legal malpractice action, and an immigration lawyer’s failed efforts to attain lawful residency status for noncitizens does not fall within the limited exception for “extremely emotional circumstances.”
Waterman went on to say he fears the decision will have a chilling effect on the willingness of attorneys to practice immigration law in Iowa despite the growing demand for legal services in that field.
The case now goes back to district court.
See the complete ruling here: Immigration ruling PDF