Reyes Mata v. Lynch

Facts of the Case

After petitioner Noel Reyes Mata, an unlawful resident alien, was convicted of assault in a Texas court, an Immigration Judge ordered him removed to Mexico. Mata’s attorney filed a notice of appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA or Board), but never filed a brief, and the appeal was dismissed. Acting through different counsel, Mata filed a motion to reopen his removal proceedings, as authorized by statute. Acknowledging that he had missed the 90-day deadline for such motions, Mata argued that his previous counsel’s ineffective assistance was an exceptional circumstance entitling him to equitable tolling of the time limit. But the BIA disagreed and dismissed the motion as untimely. The BIA also declined to reopen Mata’s removal proceedings


Did the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit err in holding that it did not have the jurisdiction to review a Board of Immigration Appeals decision not to suspend the 90-day filing limitation?


Yes. Justice Elena Kagan delivered the opinion for the 8-1 majority. The Court held that precedent establishes that circuit courts of appeals have jurisdiction to review an alien’s appeal of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision to deny a motion to reopen proceedings. Although Congress has limited the appellate courts’ authority over BIA decisions in other ways, this authority has remained in place. Additionally, while the appellate courts may lack the jurisdiction to decide the merits of whether the case should be reopened, the lack of jurisdiction over that issue does not affect the appellate court’s jurisdiction over the BIA’s decision to deny the motion.Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a dissenting opinion in which he argued that, prior to determining whether it had jurisdiction, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit should have construed the ambiguous motion in question as either invoking statutory relief or requesting that the BIA assert its inherent authority to reopen the case.

Case Information

  • Citation: 576 US _ (2015)
  • Granted: Jan 16, 2015
  • Argued: Apr 29, 2015
  • Decided Jun 15, 2015