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’08 grad represents clients in immigration cases

January 8, 2013 | Alumni

To many of his clients, Ryan Muennich ’08 serves as the only lifeline in their fight to continue pursuing their American dream, and it is not something the 30-year-old immigration attorney takes lightly. Once he gets a call from a potential client seeking immigration assistance, Muennich immediately jumps into research mode. All facts and cases are reviewed ahead of time.

“Some attorneys may not want to do that type of research until they’re actually retained. But I’ve found that doing it beforehand makes me more knowledgeable about the case, and I can really explain things to the potential client in a clearer way,” Muennich said. “A really high percentage of people that I have consultations with end up hiring me, in part, because I’m prepared to discuss their issue in detail.”

As a lawyer practicing in the melting pot that is New York City, this graduate of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law represents people from across the globe. His clients include people from Senegal, Guyana, India, China, Hungary, Russia, and Honduras.

“That’s why I love New York so much, that you really have all the different nationalities represented here,” he explained.

During a summer clerkship as a PILF fellow at Community Refugee Immigration Services, a nonprofit, Columbus-based refugee center, Muennich was exposed to the issues faced by immigrants in the Central Ohio area. Add that to his proficiency in speaking Mandarin Chinese, thanks to a foreign language area studies fellowship awarded to Muennich through Ohio State, he was convinced that immigration law was right for him.

He co-founded Muennich and Bussard LLP with his friend Chris Bussard in 2010. While Muennich specializes in all areas on immigration law, Bussard focuses on bankruptcy, trusts, estates, and wills. Muennich also possesses trial experience in the New York immigration courts as well as the New York Field Office for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Muennich had worked for a boutique law firm based in Queens prior to starting his own practice. A combination of wanting to be his own boss and having no say in the types of cases picked up by his former firm factored into his decision to break out on his own with Bussard. “I thought it would be better if I would be able to control which clients I have,” Muennich said.

Though the thought of running a law firm seemed daunting to Muennich at first, the key to successfully running a law firm, he found, is to “educate yourself to comply with the ethics rules so you know what you’re doing.”

Muennich added that certain courses he took while at Moritz, such as Immigration Law and Legislation, come in handy in court. “The exposure to statutory interpretation by Professor (Donald) Tobin early on really has informed everything I do now in immigration law. I always go to the statute first, and I always think in terms of statutory construction right from the beginning,” he said.

Muennich recently argued a precedential decision issued by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals (Hanif v. Holder, 694 F.3d 479) dealing with criminal conviction waivers for green card holders based on statutory construction. “It’s definitely my proudest achievement so far, because this case has the potential to help hundreds of future immigrants, not just my own client.”

With his relatively new law firm, most of Muennich’s cases deal with deportation defense. Some prove extremely difficult, as was the case with 29-year-old Jose Luis Martinez, who, after living in the U.S. for 24 years, was deported to Honduras. Martinez was convicted of DUI, simple marijuana possession, and misdemeanor drug possessions.

“His drug possession convictions were vacated by the criminal courts because they were not constitutionally sound. (But) by the time that happened, his stay of removal had already been denied, and we had to try to reopen the case before they put him on a plane. The Board of Immigration Appeals declined to reopen the case, relying on a terrible decision from August that says if they deport someone they can turn around and deny the motion for lack of jurisdiction. It definitely gives the government the wrong incentive.” Muennich said.

When he is not in court, Muennich spends his time catching up on immigration news and reading new cases. He gets updates from Bender’s Immigration Bulletin, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, his local chapter of AILA, and the American Immigration Council.

Muennich also makes time to grab lunch with his wife, Linda Mindrutiu ’07. “Starting my own practice, I was able to pick my own office. So I picked an office that was across the street from my wife,” Muennich said.

Despite the fact that his career as an immigration lawyer is running smoothly, Muennich wants to eventually relocate to his native Ohio.

“My family is all there, and Linda loves Ohio. But I’m still a new business, so once I am firmly established, we’ll probably make the move.”

This article was written by Ayan Sheikh.