Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Vermont Supreme Court
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This case arose from a series of plans overseen by defendants to develop several real estate projects in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Work on these projects spanned eight years, including fundraising and planning stages, and involved several limited partnerships and other corporate entities (the Jay Peak Projects). The Jay Peak Projects, at the direction of defendants Ariel Quiros and William Stenger, raised investment funds largely through a federal program known as the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program (EB-5 Program). In April 2016, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit alleging securities fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud against the Jay Peak Projects developers, Ariel Quiros and William Stenger. The Vermont Department of Financial Regulation also filed suit against Quiros and Stenger, alleging similar claims. On the basis of these and other allegations, plaintiffs, all foreign nationals who invested in the Jay Peak Projects, filed a multi-count claim against ACCD and several individual defendants. Intervenors, a group of foreign investors who were allegedly defrauded by defendants, appealed an order denying their motion to intervene in the State’s enforcement action brought against defendants. The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed because the motion to intervene was untimely. View "Vermont, et al. v. Quiros, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-investors appealed the dismissal of their claims against the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) and current and former state employees arising from the operation of a federally licensed regional center in the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) EB-5 program. USCIS designated ACCD as a regional center in 1997, and ACCD began operating the Vermont Regional Center (VRC). In 2006, the VRC partnered with a series of projects led by Ariel Quiros and William Stenger (referred to as the “Jay Peak Projects”). ACCD entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Jay Peak Projects for each project. Employees of ACCD, including James Candido and Brent Raymond, both former executive directors of the VRC, and John Kessler, general counsel for ACCD, traveled with Jay Peak representatives to EB-5 tradeshows, at which they would share a table and jointly solicit investors and promote the Projects. ACCD employees represented to prospective investors, including plaintiffs, that the added protections of state approval and oversight made the Jay Peak Projects a particularly sound investment. However, unbeknownst to the investors, but known to VRC officials, no such state oversight by the VRC existed. In 2014, about twenty investors, including plaintiff Antony Sutton, sent complaints to Brent Raymond alleging that the Jay Peak Projects was misappropriating investor funds. In April 2016, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit alleging securities fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud against the Jay Peak Projects developers, Ariel Quiros and William Stenger. The Vermont Department of Financial Regulation also filed suit against Quiros and Stenger, alleging similar claims. On the basis of these and other allegations, plaintiffs, all foreign nationals who invested in the Jay Peak Projects, filed a multi-count claim against ACCD and several individual defendants. The trial court granted plaintiffs’ motion to amend their complaint for a third time to a Fourth Amended Complaint, and then dismissed all thirteen counts on various grounds. Plaintiffs appealed. The Vermont Supreme Court reversed dismissal of plaintiffs’ claims of negligence and negligent misrepresentation against ACCD, gross negligence against defendants Brent Raymond and James Candido, and breach of contract and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing against ACCD. The Court affirmed dismissal of plaintiffs’ remaining claims. View "Sutton, et al. v. Vermont Regional Center, et al." on Justia Law

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Mother and her four minor children were undocumented immigrants from Angola living in Vermont. Mother is married to the children’s father. At one time, father indicated that he would join the family in North America but he had not. Mother alleged that father had not contacted or supported the family since 2013. She also testified that there was no place for the children in Angola. In February 2018, mother sought relief under 15 V.S.A. 291, seeking award of sole legal and physical parental-rights-and-responsibilities (PRR) based on father’s abandonment of the family. Mother also asked the court to make special findings that would allow the children to apply for “special immigrant juvenile” (SIJ) status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Father was served by publication in Angola. The trial court concluded that it was in the children’s best interests that mother have sole PRR, both legal and physical. It did not order any parent-child contact with father. The court denied mother’s request for SIJ findings, concluding it lacked authority to make SIJ findings because they were not necessary to its parental-rights-and-responsibilities (PRR) decision. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that given the primacy of a child’s best interests in cases like this and the court’s broad discretion in determining those interests, the trial court did have the authority to make such findings. “It should make such findings when it is in a child’s best interests to do so and where such findings are supported by the evidence.” The Supreme Court therefore reversed and remanded the trial court’s decision to allow it to engage in this analysis. Because one of the juveniles would turn eighteen on July 13, 2019, the Supreme Court issued the mandate immediately and directed the court to issue its findings forthwith. View "Kitoko v. Salomao" on Justia Law

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The conviction in this case stemmed from an incident that occurred in the summer of 2010. Defendant, who was attending the University of Vermont (UVM) at that time, met with complainant, another UVM student, to go to a Burlington beach. Complainant later reported that defendant had compelled her to engage in nonconsensual oral sex. In 2012, defendant was convicted of felony sexual assault and sentenced to eight years to life in prison. Defendant appealed, arguing his sentence violated the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment because his immigration status interacted with the to-serve sentence to make him unable to get sex-offender treatment, which meant that he would not be eligible for release under the Department of Corrections’ internal procedures. Without reaching the constitutional question, the Vermont Supreme Court reversed and remanded for resentencing, directing the trial court to consider the consequences that defendant’s immigration status had on his sentence. At the sentencing hearing, the court approved nine of the special conditions suggested in the PSI, but amended the proposed language of several. There was not, however, a disclosure of any other conditions that might be imposed on defendant. The probation order, which issued after the hearing, included not only the special conditions discussed on the record and imposed at the sentencing hearing, but also nineteen additional “standard” conditions. Defendant challenged the probation conditions before the Supreme Court, arguing many of the conditions were not orally pronounced during the sentencing hearing and were not sufficiently connected to his crime or rehabilitation. He also argued the sex-offender condition prohibiting defendant from purchasing, possessing, or using pornography or erotica and from going to “adult bookstores, sex shops, topless bars, etc.” was unrelated to his offense and unconstitutionally vague. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded defendant failed to properly preserve his objections to the standard conditions and reviewed them for plain error. Based on the particular provisions and the State’s concessions, the Court struck some conditions, remanded some conditions, and affirmed the remaining. The Supreme Court struck the challenged special condition as unsupported by the record. View "Vermont v. Lumumba" on Justia Law

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The conviction in this case stemmed from an incident that occurred in the summer of 2010. Defendant, who was attending the University of Vermont (UVM) at that time, met with complainant, another UVM student, to go to a Burlington beach. Complainant later reported that defendant had compelled her to engage in nonconsensual oral sex. In 2012, defendant was convicted of felony sexual assault and sentenced to eight years to life in prison. Defendant appealed, arguing his sentence violated the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment because his immigration status interacted with the to-serve sentence to make him unable to get sex-offender treatment, which meant that he would not be eligible for release under the Department of Corrections’ internal procedures. Without reaching the constitutional question, the Vermont Supreme Court reversed and remanded for resentencing, directing the trial court to consider the consequences that defendant’s immigration status had on his sentence. At the sentencing hearing, the court approved nine of the special conditions suggested in the PSI, but amended the proposed language of several. There was not, however, a disclosure of any other conditions that might be imposed on defendant. The probation order, which issued after the hearing, included not only the special conditions discussed on the record and imposed at the sentencing hearing, but also nineteen additional “standard” conditions. Defendant challenged the probation conditions before the Supreme Court, arguing many of the conditions were not orally pronounced during the sentencing hearing and were not sufficiently connected to his crime or rehabilitation. He also argued the sex-offender condition prohibiting defendant from purchasing, possessing, or using pornography or erotica and from going to “adult bookstores, sex shops, topless bars, etc.” was unrelated to his offense and unconstitutionally vague. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded defendant failed to properly preserve his objections to the standard conditions and reviewed them for plain error. Based on the particular provisions and the State’s concessions, the Court struck some conditions, remanded some conditions, and affirmed the remaining. The Supreme Court struck the challenged special condition as unsupported by the record. View "Vermont v. Lumumba" on Justia Law