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FedEx Late Delivery to Courthouse May Mean Deportation

A couple ordered deported to China lost their appeal because FedEx Corp. was one day late delivering their case to court, an appellate panel ruled.

Chao Lin and his wife, Xue Yun Lin, had until Jan. 13, 2011, to file their case in the federal Court of Appeals in Atlanta after the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals upheld their removal from the U.S. They hired FedEx on Jan. 12 to deliver their petition the next day. It arrived on Jan. 14, according to an opinion issued today.

A snowstorm followed by severe icing delayed the court’s opening on Jan. 13 until 10:30 a.m. The clerk’s office opened after that and was also available for electronic filing, the three-judge panel said.

“The Lins offer no evidence or assertion that the weather made it impossible for them to access the clerk’s office,” Judge William H. Pryor wrote in the decision.

The petition would have been filed directly with the court if they had known that FedEx hadn’t already done so, according to their lawyer, June Zhou of Boca Raton, Florida.

They learned only when the court informed them that they had missed the 30-day deadline, she said. Zhou declined to say where in the state her clients live.

“I think it’s very unfair,” Zhou said when told of the ruling.

Lacking specific package information, FedEx can’t determine what happened to the Lins’, said a company spokesman, Scott Fiedler.

Company Goal

While the company strives for 100 percent reliability, its guarantee of next-day delivery doesn’t apply when natural disasters make it impossible, he said. An ice storm caused delays that week, he said.

Company policy allows customers to track their shipments electronically or by phone, according to its website.

The Lins sought asylum in the U.S. saying that they have three children, which violates China’s one-child policy, and because they are Christians, Zhou said. Fearing prosecution on both grounds, they have been fighting deportation since 2006, according to the court ruling.

“They are probably going to be deported,” said Zhou. As for whether they will contest the ruling further, she said she didn’t know yet.

After the immigration board ordered them back to China in 2006, the Lins three times filed to reopen proceedings. They lost the last effort, in December 2010, because they had filed too many times, conditions had changed in China, and they had filed too late, the court said in today’s ruling.

High Court Ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that a death row inmate whose lawyers missed a filing deadline because of a mailroom mixup should be allowed to have his appeal heard anyway.

Citing “extraordinary circumstances quite beyond his control,” a 7-2 majority revived the appeal of an Alabama man, Cory Maples, whose case had been tossed out of court by the Atlanta appeals court.

The case is Lin v. U.S. Attorney General, 11-10100, U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit (Atlanta). The wife’s name is spelled Xin Yun Lin on docket entries.

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