Dear Milwaukee Latino Community Constituents;
See below my signature a Journal/Sentinel artilcle, “Appeal Court allows claim against notarios”, that reports on an very IMPORTANT court decision affecting our community. In short, the decision allows undocumented individuals to be able to sue notario publicos for “bad” advise…please read article.
Enrique E. Figueroa, Ph.D., Associate Professor & Director
Roberto Hernandez Center and
Assistant to the Provost for Latino Affairs
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Bolton Hall 183
P.O. Box 413
Milwaukee, WI 53201
Appeal Court allows claim against notarios
By Georgia Pabst of the Journal Sentinel
June 2, 2011
A man who sued in small claims court to recoup money he paid “notarios publicos” for advice on his wife’s application for citizenship, although she was subsequently deported, had standing to bring a claim, the state Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.
In its ruling, the court reversed an earlier decision made by Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Thomas R. Cooper and remanded the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.
The case was brought by Luis Cervando Enciso-Lopez against Virgilo Monteagudo, Neisy Monteagudo and La Gordola Inc. who are well- known “notarios publicos” who offer immigration services.
“Notarios are problematic in Milwaukee and all over the country because in Mexico a notario is a super lawyer and people who come here don’t know the difference,” said Mike Gonring, an attorney with Quarles and Brady, who said the firm took the case pro bono.
“We were not arguing the deportation because the law is the law,” he said. “But they paid for bad advice.”
Catherine LeFleur, an attorney representing the Monteagudos said she was disappointed in the ruling and had no further comment.
“My clients come from Cuba and notarios don’t have the same meaning there that they do in Mexico,” she said. “They translate documents and notarize documents,” she said. The Monteagudos have, however, been in business for a number of years.
The case was brought by Enciso, a legal permanent resident, who claimed he paid the Monteagudos more than $600 to translate a letter from U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services regarding obtaining citizenship for his wife, Alicia, who was here illegally and had previously been deported.
According to his complaint, the couple first went to the Monteagudos in 2004, but they were told to come back after three years when the wife’s application for citizenship would be timely.
In 2007 they returned four times for consultations on Alicia’s immigration status and paid for application fees, processing fees and medical examinations required by immigration, the court, the complaint said.
In November 2007 Alicia was interviewed by immigration and subsequently deported. Enciso then drove his three children to Mexico to live with their mother.
Enciso brought a small claims court action against the Monteagudos claiming that Alicia was deported as a result of the Monteagudos faulty advice and that he was entitled to recover all of the expenses he incurred, including the consultation fees, filing and processing fees, medical exams and travel expenses.
He claimed breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, notary misconduct and negligent provision of services. In all, Gonring said Enciso spent about $3,000.
In granting the Monteagudos motion for summary judgment, Cooper ruled that Enciso did not have standing to bring the case and that his wife was here illegally “by her own choice. Therefore it’s an unenforceable contract.”
Enciso appealed. In overturning the lower court decision, the appeals court wrote that “…it is clear that Enciso sustained a monetary loss by paying various fees in an effort to keep his wife in the country and to keep his family together,” and that he sustained expenses when he took his children to be with her in Mexico.
“Enciso clearly had a personal stake and interest in keeping his wife in the country and therefore was part of whatever oral agreements may have been made with the Monteagudos regarding their work to help Alicia obtain citizenship,” the court said.
“Enciso had standing to sue the Monteagudos for his monetary losses resulting from what he can prove was negligent advice or action,” the court wrote.