Zachary M. Nightingale is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law. He is a 1996 graduate of Stanford Law School, who received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1989, and a Masters degree in Mathematics from Stanford University in 1991. He has been with the firm since 1996. His practice focuses on deportation defense and federal court litigation, with an emphasis on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions. Other specialties include asylum, naturalization, and family-based adjustment of status. A significant part of his practice includes advising non-citizens and their attorneys as to the immigration consequences of pending criminal charges, and how to minimize those consequences.

Since 2003, a few years after joining the firm, he has been a partner at Van Der Hout, LLP (previously known as Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale, LLP), and is currently the managing partner of the firm.

Mr. Nightingale was honored with the 2003 Jack Wasserman Memorial Award for excellence in litigation from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and the 2014 National Immigration Project (NIP-NLG) award of outstanding contributions to the cause of immigrant justice. He has spoken regularly at local and national conferences of AILA, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and elsewhere, has participated on several AILA committees including the Benefits Litigation Committee (2022-23), Ethics Committee (2018-21), Annual Conference Program Committee (2017, 2010, 2002), Litigation Section Steering Committee (2014-2018), CA Chapters Conference Committee (2016, 2011), and been a mentor to many immigration attorneys. He lends his immigration experience on a pro bono basis by providing regular mentoring to Pangea Legal Services and by serving on the Board of Directors of two nonprofit organizations: the American Immigration Council (since 2012), and the New Breath Foundation (since 2018).

He has litigated a number of important immigration cases which established new Ninth Circuit law, including Quintero-Salazar v. Keisler, 506 F.3d 688 (9th Cir. 2007), which held for the first time that a conviction for sex with minor is not necessarily a crime involving moral turpitude; Camins v. Gonzales, 500 F.3d 872 (9th Cir 2007) which applied retroactivity principles to find that the grounds of inadmissibility do not apply to returning lawful permanent residents based on criminal conviction sustained before April 1, 1997; and Li v. Ashcroft, 389 F.3d 892 (9th Cir. 2004), in which the Court overturned a finding of removability where the fraud evidence of conviction through jury trial did not demonstrate the required elements of the aggravated felony definition. He also was attorney of record in other noteworthy precedent cases, including Serrano-Alberto v. Attorney General, 859 F.3d 208 (3rd Cir. 2017) (granting petition for review and finding that the Immigration Judge’s conduct during the removal hearing violated non-citizen’s procedural due process rights), and Zheng v. Holder, 644 F.3d 829 (9th Cir. 2011) (granting petition for review and finding BIA erred in failing to consider factor of “value and service to the community” in § 212(c) adjudication, where no mention of the considerable evidence in the record on that point).

In addition, Mr. Nightingale has been co-counsel on a number of significant cases, including Abebe v. Gonzales, 493 F.3d 1092 (9th Cir 2007) (finding applicant ineligible for 212(c) relief for crime of violence, in the absence of a corresponding ground of inadmissibility), in which a petition for rehearing en banc is currently pending; Magana-Pizano v. INS, 200 F.3d 603 (9th Cir.1999) (establishing eligibility for relief from deportation for those in immigration proceedings before the effective date of the statutory amendments eliminating relief, and for those who pled guilty before that date in reliance on being eligible for such relief), and Barahona-Gomez v. Reno, 167 F.3d 1228 (9th Cir. 1999) (affirming district court stay of deportation for circuit-wide class of applicants for suspension of deportation incorrectly denied eligibility due to directives of Executive Office for Immigration Review personnel).

Mr. Nightingale believes in holding the government to its legally obligated duties and as such sued the government as a plaintiff and named class-representative in Nightingale v. USCIS, 3:19-cv-03512, which due to the great work of the attorneys representing him, resulted in an Order Granting Summary Judgment in Favor of Plaintiffs for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (N.D.Cal, Dec. 17, 2020) (class action regarding systemic delays in FOIA processing requests for A-files by USCIS). He also was co-counsel in another class action resulting in favorable settlement, Vangala et al, v USCIS et al, Settlement Agreement (Document 40-1), No. 20-cv-08143-HSG (N.D. Cal 2021) (class action settlement reopening asylum and U-and T- visa applications rejected by USCIS due to the “No Blank Space” rejections policy).

He has served as an expert witness in both federal and California state courts regarding immigration matters, and has advised hundreds of defendants and their criminal defense counsel regarding the immigration consequences of criminal charges and convictions.

Representative Cases

  • Magana-Pizano v. INS, 200 F.3d 603, 1999, 9th Cir.
  • Barahona-Gomez v. Reno, 167 F.3d 1228, 1999, 9th Cir.
  • Quintero-Salazar v. Keisler, 506 F.3d 688 , 2007, 9th Cir.
  • Camins v. Gonzales, 500 F.3d 872 , 2007, 9th Cir
  • Li v. Ashcroft, 389 F.3d 892 , 2004, 9th Cir.
  • Abebe v. Gonzales, 493 F.3d 1092 , 2007, 9th Cir
  • Zheng v. Holder, 644 F.3d 829 (9th Cir. 2011)
  • Chen v. Aitken, 917 F.Supp.2d 1013, 2013, N.D. Cal.

Honors & Awards

  • Jack Wasserman Memorial Award, American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • Named one of the top immigration lawyers by Northern California Super Lawyers 2008-2022 magazine

Professional Associations & Memberships

  • American Immigration Lawyers Association, Member, Program Committee
  • Mentor in the Area of Immigration Court Litigation,
  • American Immigration Counsel, Board of Directors
  • New Breath Foundation, Board of Directors
  • American Civil Liberties Union, Northern California, Legal Committee
  • Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF)
  • California Attorneys for Criminal Justice

Classes/ Seminars

  • Speaker, American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • Speaker, National Lawyers Guild, National Immigration Project

Published Works

  • “An Attorney’s Ethical and Legal Obligations to Pereira-Affected Clients”, AILA Ethics Committee article, September 18, 2018 (AILA Doc. No. 18091831)
  • “Practice Advisory: Immigration Risks of Legalized Marijuana” Immigrant Legal Resource Center, January 2018 (co-author). Available at:
  • “Approaching an Immigration Case as a Litigator”, Immigration Practice Pointers, Tips for Handling Complex Cases, 2012-13 Ed. (AILA)
  • “Legal Strategies Involving Motions to Reopen, Reconsider, and Rescind Before the Board of Immigration Appeals”, authored with Avantika Shastri, Immigration and Nationality Law Handbook, 2008-09 Ed. (AILA)
  • “Here We Go Again: Motions to Reopen, Reconsider, and Rescind Before the Board of Immigration Appeals”, (Co-Author with Avantika Shastri), Bender’s Immigration Bulletin, Vol. 11, No. 15, Aug., 2006
  • “General Notes On Representing Persons Detained By INS, Especially Persons Detained Other Than For Criminal Convictions,”, Guild Practitioner, 2002
  • Kurzban, Ira, ed., Immigration Law Sourcebook, 2004-2022 (reviewer)
  • AILA’s Immigration Litigation Toolbox: Essential Materials, Administrative and Federal Court Practice, 2005