In a move that many Immigration Court observers might find unusual, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has appointed Judge James McHenry as the Acting Director of EOIR. Judge McHenry was appointed an Administrative Law Judge in the Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (“OCAHO”) in December 2106. OCAHO has jurisdiction over employer sanctions civil cases and certain employment discrimination cases involving foreign workers.
While Judge McHenry has stellar academic and professional credentials, and is an “EOIR vet,” having served as a Judicial Law Clerk/Attorney Adviser in the Buffalo and Baltimore Immigration Courts, it is unusual in my experience for the acting head of EOIR to come from outside the ranks of current or former members of the Senior Executive Service, since it is a major executive job within the DOJ.
Here is a recent bio of Judge McHenry taken from the press release of his December appointment as an ALJ:
“James McHenry, Administrative Law Judge
James McHenry was appointed as an administrative law judge (ALJ) for the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO), Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), Department of Justice (DOJ), in November 2016. Judge McHenry earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1997 from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, a Master of Arts degree in 2003 from the Vanderbilt University Graduate School, and a Juris Doctor in 2003 from the Vanderbilt University Law School. From February to November 2016, he served as an ALJ for the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, Social Security Administration, in Baltimore, and previously from 2014 to February 2016, in Greenville, S.C. From 2010 through 2014 he served as a senior attorney for the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in Atlanta. From 2010 through 2011, he served as a special assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Georgia, DOJ, in Atlanta. From 2005 through 2010, he served as an assistant chief counsel for OPLA, ICE, DHS, in Atlanta. From 2004 through 2005, he served as an attorney advisor for the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge (OCIJ), EOIR, DOJ, in Baltimore. From 2003 through 2004, he served as a judicial law clerk for OCIJ, EOIR, DOJ, in Buffalo, entering on duty through the Attorney General’s Honors Program. Judge McHenry is a member of the Tennessee State Bar.”
As noted by Politico in a report last week, it is strange that neither the DOJ nor EOIR has issued any press release or other official statement announcing the departure of Director Juan Osuna and Deputy Director Ana Kocur and the appointment of Judge McHenry to be Acting Director. Here’s a link to the Politico item: http://wp.me/p8eeJm-SZ
While sources confirm that an internal announcement was sent to EOIR employees last Friday, and Judge McHenry sent his own message to all of EOIR, as of Tuesday AM, there were no publicly posted announcements of these important personnel changes. However, Judge McHenry’s bio now does appear under the “Meet the Acting Director” tab on the EOIR website.
Congratulations and good luck to Judge McHenry in his important new role. He takes the reins at a difficult time in EOIR history with an already-record Immigration Court backlog approaching 600,000 cases, and constant reports of deteriorating morale among U.S. Immigraton Judges, court staff, and the public that deals with the Immigration Courts. I am not aware at this point whether Judge McHenry will be a candidate for the EOIR Director’s job on a permanent basis.