Sunday, August 24, 2008

Serious Questions Raised About Improperly-Appointed Immigration Judges

Charlie Savage wrote a story on August 23, 2008 for the New York Times, "Vetted Judges More Likely To Reject Asylum Bids" that analyzed Justice Department data and concludes improperly-appointed immigration judges reject asylum claims at a higher rate than those who were appointed correctly. (Nina Bernstein and Robert Gebeloff contributed to the story.)

The Justice Department's Inspector General wrote a report this year that concluded that members of the Bush Administration and the Attorney General's office illegally used political affiliation when hiring immigration judges for around three years. The Inspector General blamed Kyle Sampson, Monica M. Goodling, and Jan Williams for the illegal practice.

Out of the 31 immigration judges that the journalist believes were appointed through the illegal process, there were 16 who had a substantial record that could be analyzed. Nine denied asylum cases at a rate worse than their colleagues at the same city, four were roughly equal, and three denied at a lower rate.

What should be done now to the people appointed through an improper process? Should they be removed, the position be advertised, and they plus others be given a chance to apply? If so, should their experience during their improperly-appointed period be allowed to boost their applications?

What should be done now for the people who had cases decided by the judges appointed through an improper process? Reopen all of the cases and give them to properly appointed judges? Review all of the cases and see which ones might have been decided differently under the discretion of an immigration judge properly appointed as opposed to the discretion of the immigration judge improperly appointed? (This seems similar to the debate about how to deal with court rulings made by judges in patent cases who were improperly appointed due to a flaw in how the government appointed many of the judges.)

If your case is in the process of being decided by an immigration judge who was appointed through an improper process, do you raise it to the judge? Or would that risk getting the judge angry and affect how the judge uses its discretion in reviewing your case?


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