NEW YORK — June 24, 2013 — The United States Supreme Court today agreed to hear the appeal of a compelling international child abduction case. In Manuel Jose Lozano v. Diana Lucia Montoya Alvarez, the Court will address an important issue under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction: whether a left-behind parent is entitled to equitable tolling of the one-year filing period for a petition for the return of the child when the abducting parent concealed the location of the child from the left-behind parent. Hunton & Williams LLP represents the left-behind father, Mr. Lozano, pro bono.

"This is a recurring and important issue. Statistics show it arises in large percentages of abduction cases and courts are resolving it inconsistently. The lower court's treatment here rewards the abducting parent’s wrongful action of concealing her whereabouts to prevent the father from knowing where to file a petition," said Shawn Patrick Regan, who is Counsel of Record before the Supreme Court and working with associates John R. Hein and Kristin Kramer, and Washington, DC-based partner Ryan Shores. "We are pleased to have this opportunity for our client and other similarly-situated families."

"Serving those in need as pro bono counsel has always been a core commitment of our firm. This extraordinary Supreme Court case is another demonstration of our continued commitment to employing our talents and resources to take on some of the most challenging pro bono matters,” said Wally Martinez, firm managing partner.

The issue in the case stems from Article 12 of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction. It provides that when a child has been "wrongfully removed" to another country the child shall be "return[ed]." Where the left-behind parent delays in filing a petition for return until more than a year after the abduction the court need not return the child if "it is demonstrated that the child is now settled in its new environment." The question for the Court is whether equitable tolling applies to the one-year period where the abducting parent has concealed the child’s whereabouts thus preventing a timely filing.

The factual circumstances in Lozano v. Alvarez began in November 2008 and involve unmarried parents of a girl who was born in London in 2005. Several years later, the mother abducted the child, first to locations in London and then to France, before ultimately coming to the United States. After evidence indicated that the mother had left the UK, Mr. Lozano followed proper procedures under international law to locate the child. After he determined they had entered the United States, the child was located through the efforts of Hunton & Williams and a private investigator funded by the firm, but not until almost 15 months after the child was abducted. The trial court declined to toll the one-year period for automatic return and further found the child "settled" in the United States notwithstanding the lack of legal status on the ground that there was no immediate threat of deportation. In October 2012, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York agreed that the one-year period cannot be equitably tolled. That court’s decision conflicts with published decisions of the Ninth and Eleventh Circuits and an unpublished decision of the Fifth Circuit each of which has determined that equitable tolling does apply to Article 12.

In response to Hunton & Williams' petition for a writ of certiorari on behalf of the father, the Supreme Court called for the views of the US Solicitor General, which recommended on May 24, 2013, that the high court grant certiorari in this case. The Court is expected to hear argument in November or December. Regan, Hein, Kramer, and Shores are available for interviews.

Pro Bono Tradition

Hunton & Williams continues to lead the way in community service in the United States, and the firm’s tradition of pro bono and community service is well recognized. The firm, one of only nine firms selected to The National Law Journal's Pro Bono "Hot List" 2013, continues to devote significant time in serving the community throughout the United States. During the firm’s last four fiscal years, 100 percent of the firm's full-time US lawyers worked on pro bono projects. The firm maintains three neighborhood offices — in Richmond and Charlottesville, Virginia, and in Atlanta — solely dedicated to pro bono services for low-income individuals and a full-time staffed Pro Bono Fellows program.