Immigrant victimized by ICE forgery doesn't have to pay fees

SEATTLE — A federal judge is criticizing the Justice Department for seeking legal fees from a Mexican immigrant who was the victim of a forgery by a government lawyer.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein on Tuesday denied the department's effort to make Ignacio Lanuza pay legal fees for his unsuccessful attempt to hold the government liable for the forgery. The fees could have topped $100,000.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement lawyer forged a document to try to get Lanuza deported in 2009.

Lanuza sued, prompting a criminal investigation that sent the lawyer to jail, but the court found the government did not have to pay damages.

Rothstein said that though Lanuza lost the case, his claim wasn't frivolous, and the DOJ's effort to make him pay legal fees smacked of "personal animus."