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Voices of the Bar 2/2/17: Boston Attorneys Respond to Executive Order on Immigration

As you’ve likely read in the news, on Saturday night, many attorneys joined fellow citizens in opposition of President Trump’s executive order banning  immigrants from seven countries from entering, or re-entering, the U.S.

We asked our members who were there to share something about what they saw, what they did, and what they were feeling on Saturday night when the dropped what they were doing (some even went straight from the Boston Bar Foundation’s Adams Benefit, the area’s largest fundraiser for legal aid, to help) and rushed to Logan Airport and to the federal courthouse.

📷Matthew Segal – American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts “The ACLU told President Trump we would see him in court if he ordered this unconstitutional ban on Muslims, and we have. As soon as we heard about the illegal, unconstitutional, and dangerous Muslim ban, we began trying to help its victims. On Saturday, January 28, I learned from attorneys Susan Church and Kerry Doyle about U.S. lawful permanent residents who were being detained at Logan Airport. Lawyers from the ACLU of Massachusetts, Mintz Levin, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association of New England sprang into action. We hurried to draft and file a complaint, and to ask the federal court to convene an emergency hearing. The court agreed.

We all rushed to the Moakley Courthouse in Boston, and two federal judges heard our arguments in the middle of the night, in front of a courtroom packed with civil rights advocates and journalists. By the time the hearing ended, just before 2 a.m., we had historic rulings from federal courts in Boston and throughout the nation to block the ban, at least temporarily. Now we are fighting for its full repeal.”

📷Heather Yountz – Demissie & Church “Susan Church and I went to the airport on Saturday afternoon to hang some fliers with information about free legal advice for family members of people who may be detained. An Air France flight came in around 5:30, and we noticed a few people standing in front of us staring at the door where passengers were coming out. I told Susan that they had been waiting for a while. One of the women said something like “case by case basis.” Susan immediately popped up. From the moment we spoke with them, we knew we had at least one plaintiff. The airport scene was very loud. Hundreds of protesters were chanting and holding signs, police officers were standing by, Elizabeth Warren arrived, and reporters and cameras were everywhere.

In the midst of it all, Susan and I were coordinating with the ACLU to prepare the paperwork for a lawsuit and to find an available judge.  At the same time, we were trying to protect our clients from the media. As we waited, some of our plaintiffs were released. A judge agreed to have a hearing at 9:30 PM in the Federal Courthouse. We raced from the airport to the court, and met Kerry Doyle, the ACLU attorneys, and several other lawyers there. While we waited for the judges to arrive, we went over the briefs and discussed our various arguments. We coordinated with Derege Demissie, Susan’s husband and law partner, who was filing the paperwork from home. He was on the phone with us until well after midnight. The judges did not make a decision until nearly two in the morning.

What I remember the most was the feeling of everyone coming together. In the airport, there were several attorneys assisting Susan and me every step of the way. In the courtroom, the clerks and court staff did everything they could to help us move the case forward in an efficient manner. There were more than six attorneys who joined us in the courtroom for the remainder of the night. When the restraining order was issued, we were thrilled with the result. It was more than we had asked for. It was a true team effort.”

📷Joshua Daniels – Goodwin “I was protesting the executive order at the international terminal at Logan on Saturday night when I got a text from a very good law school friend. She said that she was at the Boston Bar Foundation Adams Benefit, and that Sue Finegan (whom I’ve worked with a lot over the last few months in connection with the Appeals Court’s civil clinic) was on her way to the airport to support other lawyers seeking an emergency TRO.  I emailed Sue and asked if she could use any help, since I was already there.  She met me there, we rushed over to federal court, and I spent the rest of the night researching case law and statutory provisions on my phone to help the AILA and ACLU lawyers who argued the TRO that evening, at around 11:50 p.m.  An unconventional way to spend Saturday night, but I can think of none better.”

📷Susan Finegan – Mintz Levin “Throughout the day last Saturday, my Mintz partner Susan Cohen and I had been in touch with Susan Church, president of AILA, to monitor what was happening at the Logan Airport after the executive order issued.  Around 8 p.m., while at the Boston Bar Foundation’s Adams Benefit, I received an urgent call from Susan Church that Customs and Border Patrol had detained a few professors, and that the ACLU was preparing a habeas petition for an emergency filing that evening.  Susan asked me to come to the airport to assist, so I ran out the door (leaving my coat and valeted car) and jumped in a cab with my husband and a law student, Merry Sheehan, who were also at the Adams Benefit.

We had a difficult time getting to Terminal E, given the an ongoing protest and extensive police presence. When we arrived, we learned that there would be a hearing in federal court imminently.  In the meantime, I got an email from Josh Daniels from Goodwin, who happened to be at the airport (at the protest), so we picked him up and headed over in a cab to the federal court to help the lawyers there in any way we could.

It was certainly a unique Saturday night; the Court issued the order at 1:45 a.m.  It has been a whirlwind since, as Mintz Levin is now partnering with the ACLU, the Attorney General’s office and others on this important case, standing up for the rights of these particular individuals and for all individuals, regardless of their nationality, race or religion, whose right to due process has been denied by this overly broad and unlawful action.”

If you would like to respond to a future Voices of the Bar, make sure you send a headshot, and contact Lauren DiTullio at


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