Carmen Iguina González
Carmen Iguina González is counsel at Kaplan Hecker & Fink, resident in the DC office. She joined the firm in 2022.
Carmen specializes in appellate and complex civil litigation and has substantial experience representing clients in matters related to administrative, constitutional, and civil rights law. She is a nationally renowned civil rights litigator whose work has advanced the rights of immigrants and people of color, including litigation concerning the right to legal representation, basic fairness in removal proceedings, and critical protections against arbitrary detention. She has won path-breaking court rulings, advocated for the rights of asylum seekers, unaccompanied immigrant children, families, and other immigrants seeking refuge in the United States, and has worked with federal, state, and local governments to enact policies aimed at protecting immigrant communities. In addition to her legal work, Carmen advocates for immigrants’ rights and has frequently written on related topics, including California immigration legislation, injustices in the asylum-seeking process, and the mistreatment of immigrants with serious mental disabilities in immigration detention centers.
Carmen is a member of the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia, the Hispanic National Bar Association, and the DC Circuit Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services. She also serves as a mentor to young lawyers through The Appellate Project, NYU Birnbaum Women’s Leadership Network Fellows Program, and the NYU Law Alumni of Color Association. In 2022, Carmen was recognized by the Hispanic National Bar Association among their “Top Attorneys Under 40.” She has also been recognized in 2018 as a “40 Under 40 Rising Star” by the NYU Law Alumni of Color Association, in 2016 as a California Attorney of the Year (Immigration), and in 2014 as the recipient of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Jack Wasserman Memorial Award.
Carmen joined the firm from the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, where she worked as a Senior Staff Attorney. At the ACLU, Carmen developed and led complex civil rights litigation and engaged in advocacy to protect the rights of immigrant communities, including constitutional, statutory, and administrative law challenges to detention practices, restrictions on asylum, and immigration enforcement abuses. She represented immigrant detainees in challenges concerning the adequacy of procedures afforded at initial bond hearings. Carmen also served as counsel for plaintiffs in litigation challenging the practice of forcibly separating children from their parents at the US border. She also represented asylum seekers and organizational plaintiffs before the US Supreme Court and federal district court in challenges to the “Remain in Mexico” immigration policy.
Carmen has served as a law clerk at every level of the federal judiciary, having clerked for the Hon. Sonia Sotomayor of the Supreme Court of the United States, the Hon. Stephen R. Reinhardt of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the Hon. Kiyo A. Matsumoto of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Prior to joining the ACLU as Senior Staff Attorney, Carmen was an associate for Jones Day, where she represented clients in complex civil, criminal, and administrative matters as an attorney in the Issues and Appeals practice group. She also maintained an active pro bono docket, including the Laredo Project, which has provided legal counsel, as well as legal education, to over 10,000 asylum seekers who have been detained by the US government. Carmen also represented asylum seekers pro bono in proceedings before the Immigration Court and Board of Immigration Appeals.
From 2012 to 2017, Carmen was an Equal Justice Works Fellow and then a Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Southern California, where her work included acting as counsel in the first case that established a right to appointed legal representation for any group of immigrants facing deportation. This case, Franco v. Holder, requires the federal government to provide legal representation to immigrants with serious mental disabilities. She was also counsel in J.E.F.M. v. Holder, a nationwide class action lawsuit seeking to require the government to provide children with legal representation in their deportation hearings, and in Alfaro Garcia v. Holder, a nationwide class action lawsuit filed on behalf of thousands of immigrants fleeing persecution who had faced months of detention while awaiting reasonable fear determinations.
Beyond her work pertaining to immigrant rights, Carmen has done critical work related to criminal justice. Carmen worked alongside a legal team in Youth Justice Coalition v. City of Los Angeles, a class action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of Angelenos against the Los Angeles police and prosecutors who unfairly subjected the plaintiffs to restrictive “gang injunctions” without due process. These “gang injunctions” included court orders that turn common behavior into crimes, such as possessing cell phones, drinking alcohol on your own front porch, and associating with people the police claim are also gang members. Carmen helped develop that litigation, working alongside community organizations to gather facts and interview affected community members, develop the legal claims, and brief key pleadings in the case. The team ultimately settled the case with the City of Los Angeles, ensuring that no resident is subjected to “gang injunctions” without fair warning and process.
Carmen was also lead counsel in Bridges v. United States, a criminal habeas appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit concerning the right to effective assistance of counsel at sentencing proceedings. Bridges v. United States established hugely important precedent in the circuit holding that defense counsel must develop and raise claims that have been foreshadowed in the case law, even when there was no binding in-circuit precedent on that exact issue. Carmen developed the arguments and argued the case before the court of appeals, ultimately securing this important victory for criminal defendants in the circuit.
Carmen received her J.D., magna cum laude, from New York University School of Law, where she was a Root Tilden Kern Scholar and recipient of the Maurice Goodman Memorial Prize, awarded for outstanding scholarship and character, and the Ann Petluck Poses Memorial Prize, awarded for outstanding work in a clinical course requiring student practice. Carmen also served as an Articles Editor at the New York University Law Review. She received her A.B., magna cum laude, from Harvard University, where she graduated with highest honors in her field and was awarded the Gordon W. Allport Prize for Distinguished Senior Thesis.