Mondaca-Vega v. Holder

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Immigration
  • Date Filed: 04-25-2013
  • Case #: 03-71369
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Graber for the Court: Circuit Judge Callahan; Dissent by Circuit Judge Pregerson
  • Full Text Opinion

Findings of fact related to questions of citizenship are reviewed for clear error.

Salvador Mondaca-Vega (a.k.a. Reynaldo Carlon Mondaca, Jose Valdez-Vega) sought review of the district court’s finding that he is Salvador Mondaca-Vega and that he is not a United States citizen. The district court determined in a bench trial that he was born in Mexico in 1931 and was never given legal permanent resident status. There were findings of fact that he had been granted voluntary departures by various law enforcement agencies ten to twenty times under various aliases, and INS had deported him four times under the name Salvador Mondaca-Vega and once under another name. The petitioner challenges the standard of review arguing that Lim v. Mitchell requires de novo review of the district court’s ruling. The Ninth Circuit held that Lim was repudiated by the Supreme Court and no longer applies, and that Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a) requires a court to review findings of fact in a civil case for clear error. Mondaca-Vega also argued that the district court used an improper burden of proof. The panel determined that the district court had not erred in requiring Mondaca-Vega to present proof of his citizenship by a preponderance of the evidence, and that the burden that then shifted to the government was that of clear and convincing evidence. He argued that a clear, unequivocal, and convincing burden was higher—almost equal to the reasonable doubt of a criminal case—but the panel held that the standards are indistinguishable and interchangeable. Finally, the panel found that the district court, weighing all of the evidence, did not come to an erroneous conclusion that he was Salvador Mondaca-Vega. Petition DENIED.

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