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Immigration Law

NAIJ Files Grievance over Sessions' Meddling in Castro-Tum

"Judges’ Union Files Grievance Over DOJ’s Interference with Judicial Independence and Violation of the Due Process Rights of Those Appearing before the Immigration Courts; Guatemalan Youth Ordered Deported Despite Philadelphia-based Federal Judge’s Decision to Delay Hearing"

Press Release, Aug. 8, 2018 - "The National Association of Immigration Judges, the union that represents the nation’s roughly 350 federal Immigration Judges, filed a formal grievance today seeking redress for the unwarranted removal of cases from the docket of a Philadelphia-based judge, United States Immigration Judge Steven A. Morley. NAIJ also is seeking a written acknowledgement from the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which oversees Immigration Courts, that no case assignment or reassignment be conducted in a manner that interferes with a judge’s decisional authority. According to the Judges’ filing, EOIR subverted the judicial process, undermined Judge Morley’s decisional independence, and impugned his competence and integrity, by removing pending cases scheduled for decision in order to obtain an Agency determined outcome.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions personally interceded in the Matter of Castro-Tum in January using the case to severely limit the authority of Immigration Judges to schedule and prioritize their cases, otherwise known as “administrative closure.” The matter was then remanded to Judge Morley to continue to preside over the proceedings.

At that remanded hearing, an attorney appeared as “friend of the court” on behalf of Castro-Tum. Finding that the legal notice of hearing was too rushed to proceed on that day, Judge Morley continued the case to assure adequate time for proper notice. Disagreeing with Judge Morley’s exercise of judgment to ensure that due process was observed, the Agency re-assigned the case to a supervisory judge who traveled from Virginia to Philadelphia to hear just this one case, presumably to assure that an in absentia removal order was issued.

Dozens of additional cases were also removed from Judge Morley's docket after he questioned the reliability of the addresses provided to the Court by the government on behalf of juvenile respondents, including Castro-Tum.

“The decisional independence of immigration judges is under siege,” said Tabaddor. “If allowed to stand, the Agency can simply forum-shop its cases for the outcome it wishes to achieve,” she added.

The grievance filed by NAIJ maintains that actions against Judge Morley, a well-known, respected impartial judge, violated the integrity of the Immigration Court proceedings. The NAIJ filing further states that EOIR’s actions undermined not only Judge Morley’s judicial independence and ability to properly manage his docket, but also threatens the ability of all Immigration Judges nationwide to fairly apply the immigration laws of the United States consistent with due process rights of all parties."

Ani Ucar, Vice News, Aug. 8, 2018 - "[T]he grievance is a sign that immigration judges are growing increasingly defiant of the Trump administration's efforts to control the way they manage their cases. “It is the most blatant example of an affront to decisional independence,” said Judge Dana Leigh Marks, president emeritus of the National Association of Immigration Judges. “It’s a threat to our very existence, the heart of what we are trying to protect.” ... “Morale is at an all-time horrible low,” said Judge Marks, who has been serving as an immigration judge in San Francisco for over 30 years. “Never in the history of the organization have we filed a grievance such as this that goes to the core of our existence.”