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Immigration Law

How Independent Are Immigration Judges? A Peek Behind the Curtain

Prof. Jacqueline Stevens, June 19, 2016 - "Yesterday I bumped into an email from "PBZ"* to Assistant Chief Immigration Judge (ACIJ) Gary Smith.  It documents everything Atlanta practitioners knew but couldn't exactly prove: 1) The Atlanta IJs were coordinating their rulings; 2) EOIR headquarters is meddling in individual case orders; and 3) Atlanta IJs do not follow the law, and in fact cannot even quote it accurately.   And correspondence from PBZ indicates that Board decisions depend on the staff attorney who writes them, not the Board members.  This is from the AILA trove of IJ Misconduct Complaints obtained through FOIA litigation.  My Northwestern colleagues and I are moving from our quantitative to qualitative analyses of the complaints.  After reviewing the randomly selected complaints, I am now focusing on PBZ--distinguished for the number of complaints he drew. ... *Narrative material from other complaints refers to PBZ as a former trial attorney in the same court where he was appointed an IJ.  J. Dan Pelletier is the only IJ under the supervision of Smith who meets that criterion and was appointed in the time frame indicated; plus the content of the complaints match up with everything others and I have observed about Pelletier first-hand."