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Malpractice suit against Howe settled out of court

Longtime Grand Forks criminal defense attorney Henry Howe and two former clients reached a settlement last week in a malpractice suit leveled against him last year.

Elias Angel Camacho Banda and Margarita Maya Morales sued Howe last January in Grand Forks District Court, alleging he owed them tens of thousands of dollars in damages after he botched their immigration case.

Last Wednesday, the two sides settled, and the case was closed. Because the settlement was filed under seal, the details of the agreement are unknown.

David Chapman, who represented the Camachos, did not return a call by press time.

The Camachos, who had lived illegally in the U.S. for more than 20 years, retained Howe as an attorney after they were served with removal papers in 2007. The malpractice suit alleged Howe bungled the case by failing to bolster his clients' case with needed documentation, leading the immigration judge to ordering the Camachos to leave the country in 2011.

The Camachos were trying to prove that removal to their native Mexico would result in "exceptional and extremely unusual hardship" for their son who has a learning disability.

The malpractice suit cites multiple instances when Howe failed to notify the Camachos of important court dates, failed to file court papers in a timely manner and failed to produce information — information that the immigration judge expressly asked for — that would have bolstered the Camachos' case.

In fact, Howe's license to practice law was suspended last March after the North Dakota Supreme Court found he had violated lawyers' rules of professional conduct while representing the Camachos.

The North Dakota Supreme Court recently allowed Howe to practice law again, but with restrictions. Howe is not allowed to take immigration cases anymore.

The Camachos appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals and are legal residents of the United States, along with their five children.