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Getting a day in court isn’t always enough. Marc Van Der Hout, who’s been the premier advocate in deportation and asylum cases for many years in the Bay Area, knows this better than anyone. “We do believe in trying to take on cases that can have a large impact as opposed to taking on only cases that are individual in nature,” said the 55-year-old attorney, who manages eight lawyers at Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale in San Francisco. That kind of advocacy means occasionally suing the federal government. In 2001′s Barahona-Gomez v. Reno , 236 F.3d 115, Van Der Hout successfully persuaded the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to overturn an order from the chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals and the United States’ chief immigration judge. Their order had instructed immigration judges to stop granting asylum because they suspected that an immigration cap had been reached. When discussing the Barahona class action and others like it, Van Der Hout is modest about winning, saying the key was involving other attorneys and nonprofits to combat the U.S. government’s more substantial resources. Others in the practice area don’t hold back their praise. “He is a symbol, almost an icon,” said Angela Bean of Bean & Associates in San Francisco. “He has always grabbed onto the most compelling issues of the day, [and] he will continue, come hell or high water.” Beyond that, Van Der Hout is known for attracting talent. Several lawyers mentioned Zachary Nightingale, a partner in Van Der Hout’s firm, as an up-and-comer who’s already making a name for himself. He joined the firm in 1996 after graduating from Stanford Law School. Van Der Hout got his start soon after graduating from Golden Gate University School of Law in 1977. He went to work in the area of legal services — because he was looking to use his Spanish — and then struck out on his own. Now legal services and immigration are popular practice areas. That’s OK, there’s plenty of work — Van Der Hout said things are only getting worse for immigrants. In 1996, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform & Immigrant Responsibility Act, which Van Der Hout said was the beginning of the recent “politicization” of immigration. That continued, of course, with Sept. 11. “The administration, all they have to do is yell ‘terrorist’ and the person has got two strikes against them,” Van Der Hout said. “It’s very hard to get a person out of trouble at this point.”

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