U.S. IMMIGRATION COURTS: LATEST JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS SHOW MORE DIVERSE BACKGROUNDS — MORE SUPERVISORY JUDGES ASSIGNED TO LOCAL COURTS!

In what should be a positive development for all who care about the future of our U.S. Immigration Courts, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s latest group of nine new U.S. Immigaration Judge appointees includes seven new judges with “outside” experience in either defending migrants or judging in other systems, or both.

Judge Katherine L. Hansen, Bloomington, MN, most recently served as a senior staff attorney at Iowa Legal Aid and also spent 12 years as a Michigan State District Court Judge.

Judge Jose A. Sanchez, Boston, spent the last 22 years as an Associate Justice for the Trial Court of Massachusetts.

Judge Christopher R. Seppanen, Cleveland, was a Supervisory Administrative Law Judge in Michigan for the past 15 years.

Judge Charlotte D. Brown, Harlingen, most recently spent seven years as a North Carolina State District Court Judge.

Judge Charles R. Conway, New York City, spent the last two years as a Supervising Attorney in the Immigration Unit of the Legal Aid Society in New York. Prior to that, he had his own immigration law practice and also was an Immigration Staff Attorney at Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem.

Judge Maria E. Navarro, New York City, had been an attorney with the  Legal Aid Society in New York for 21 years, the last nine years as a Supervising Attorney and ultimately Acting Attorney-in-Charge.

Judge Charles M. McCullough, San Antonio, served as the Senior Assistant Chief Industrial Appeals Judge in Washington State for the past 15 years.

Judge Patrick O’Brien, San Francisco, was an Assistant Chief Counsel for ICE in San Francisco for the past eight years.

Judge Joseph Y. Park, San Francisco, was the Deputy Chief Counsel for ICE in San Francisco for the past six years.

Additionally, EOIR announced that Judge Daniel Weiss has been appointed Assistant Chief Immigration Judge (“ACIJ”) in Dallas and Judge Clay Martin has been appointed ACIJ in San Antonio.

I have been a frequent critic of Sessions, his “over the top” rhetoric and actions on immigration enforcement, his undermining of important civil rights protections, and his previous record of appointing Immigration Judges solely from the ranks of government attorneys, almost all former prosecutors.

But, I have to say that this is one of the most diverse and well-balanced group of appointments that I have seen coming from an Attorney General in many years, including, for the most part, the Obama Administration.

I believe that having judges who have served in other systems and who have both defended and prosecuted migrants in the mix should generate some new perspectives and, hopefully, some practical, realistic solutions to the many problems facing the Immigration Courts on a daily basis.

I know that as a judge I always appreciated getting insights from my colleagues who came from different backgrounds and had different experiences and often different views on how to approach an issue. Sometimes, I tried out several approaches before finding the one that worked best in my courtroom.

My colleagues also frequently consulted me behind the scenes. I was happy to share perspectives I had gained as an appellate judge, private practitioner, Senior Executive, and professor. Indeed discussing legal and administrative issues “in chambers” with my colleagues and often our wonderful JLCs and legal interns was one of the highlights of the job, and certainly helped relieve the otherwise unrelenting stress of having people’s lives and futures in your hands continually.  (We tried, not always successfully, to steer our daily lunch discussions away from “work” to topics like sports, politics, history, theology, family, travel, etc.)

I also applaud the decision to place more ACIJs in the local courts rather than at HQ in Falls Church. Hopefully, they will handle at least partial dockets to have a better idea of the reality facing their colleagues.

A continuous complaint from sitting Immigration Judges and Court Administrators has been OCIJ’s attempt to micromanage and solve problems “from afar.” Many times we thought or said to ourselves “if they were here doing cases they wouldn’t have to ask that question.” Over many years in many different legal positions, I have found that “working supervisors” who are actively involved in the substantive work of the office, and accessible to their colleagues, do far better in solving problems, and achieving respect and cooperation from their colleagues than those who remain “above the fray.” A leader, particularly among judges, is more likely to develop a timely and effective solution to a problem if she or he faces that very problem on a daily basis and gets constant input from colleagues.

Of course, as with most things, “the devil is in the details.” It depends on what the local ACIJ’s mission is. If he or she is there to work collectively with colleagues, staff, the local bar, and ICE to solve problems, improve due process, and serve as a resource for other courts and for OCIJ in developing sound nationwide policies that support and improve due process, that would be a very positive development. On the other hand, if the ACIJ is an “emissary from on high” sent to crack the whip and enforce unrealistic or inappropriate policies developed at the DOJ or OCCIJ without appropriate input from Immigration Judges and local stakeholders, that’s going to be a nasty failure that will actually make an already bad situation even worse.

The latest appointments list could well be a fluke. Some have suggested that it is just the function of most of the “outside” appointments in the “pipeline” being tied up with (unnecessarily) long background clearances which finally came through in group. If so, the appointments could return to the “insiders only” practice.

But, for the reasons I have outlined above, more diverse and balanced selections for the Immigration Judiciary would well-serve the courts, due process, and the public interest in fair and efficient hearings in U.S. Immigration Court.

By no means am I suggesting that a few outside appointments and local ACIJs can solve the dysfunction now gripping the U.S. Immigration Court system. Only an independent Article I U.S. Immigration Court can do that. But, more diverse judicial appointments and constructive local court management involving sitting judges would be small steps in the right direction.

I am republishing below the complete EOIR press release on the new appointments, giving more detailed information on their backgrounds and qualifications. Congratulations to each of the new U.S. Immigration Judges. Due Process Forever!

PWS

08-16-17

U.S. Department of Justice

Executive Office for Immigration Review

Office of the Director
5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 2600 Falls Church, Virginia 22041

Contact: Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs

Phone: 703-305-0289 Fax: 703-605-0365 PAO.EOIR@usdoj.gov @DOJ_EOIR

www.justice.gov/eoir

Aug. 14, 2017

Executive Office for Immigration Review Swears in Nine Immigration Judges

FALLS CHURCH, VA – The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has invested nine immigration judges to fill positions in Bloomington, Minn.; Boston; Cleveland; Harlingen, Texas; New York; San Antonio; and San Francisco.

The nine new immigration judges were selected from all qualified U.S. citizen applicants. Each must demonstrate appropriate temperament to serve as an immigration judge, and three of the following: knowledge of immigration laws and procedures, substantial litigation experience, experience handling complex legal issues, experience conducting administrative hearings, and knowledge of judicial practices and procedures.

Last Friday’s investiture brings the size of the immigration corps to 334. EOIR is continuing to employ its newly streamlined hiring process to reach its fully authorized level of 384 immigration judges. As the agency increases the number of immigration judges hearing cases, it is also expanding the number of supervisory immigration judges in the field. On Aug. 20, Daniel Weiss and Clay Martin will begin work as assistant chief immigration judges in Dallas and San Antonio, respectively.

Immigration judges preside over formal, quasi-judicial immigration court hearings and make decisions regarding the removability of aliens whom the Department of Homeland Security charges with violations of U.S. immigration law.

Biographical information follows.

Katherine L. Hansen, Immigration Judge, Bloomington Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Katherine L. Hansen to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge Hansen earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1986 from Morningside College, a Juris Doctor in 1991 from Drake University School of Law, and a Master of Laws degree in 1997 from Wayne State University School of Law. From 2016 to 2017, she served as a senior staff attorney for Iowa Legal Aid. From 2004 to 2016, she served as a district court judge for Michigan’s 36th District Court, in Detroit, Mich. From 2000 to 2004, she served as an

Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs

— more —

EOIR Swears in Nine Immigration Judges Page 2

assistant attorney general for the State of Michigan. From 1993 to 1999, she served as a member of the Michigan Employment Security Board of Review for the State of Michigan, in Lansing, Mich. Judge Hansen is a member of the Iowa and Michigan State Bars.

Jose A. Sanchez, Immigration Judge, Boston Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Jose A. Sanchez to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge Sanchez earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1984 from Fordham University at Lincoln Center and a Juris Doctor in 1987 from Northeastern University School of Law. From 1995 to 2017, he served as an associate justice of the trial court for the Trial Court of Massachusetts, in Lawrence, Mass. From 1987 to 1995, he served as a trial attorney for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, in Cambridge, Mass. From 1976 to 1981, he served as an air traffic controller for the Federal Aviation Administration, in New York, N.Y. Judge Sanchez is a member of the Massachusetts State Bar.

Christopher R. Seppanen, Immigration Judge, Cleveland Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Christopher R. Seppanen to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge Seppanen earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1990 from Alma College and a Juris Doctor in 1993 from the University of Kentucky College of Law. From 2002 to 2017, he worked for the State of Michigan, in Lansing, Mich., serving as a supervisory administrative law judge, 2002 to 2012; a deputy chief administrative law judge, 2012 to 2014; and a chief administrative law judge, 2014 to 2017. From 1997 to 2002, he served as an administrative law judge for the State of Michigan, in Manistee, Mich. From 1996 to 1997, he served as a trial attorney for the Office of Public Advocacy, in Alpena, Mich. Judge Seppanen is a member of the Michigan State Bar.

Charlotte D. Brown, Immigration Judge, Harlingen Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Charlotte D. Brown to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge Brown earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1979 from The City University of New York, York College, a Juris Doctor in 1990 from St. John’s University School of Law, and a Master of Divinity in 2001 from Hood Theological Seminary. From 2009 to 2016, she served as a district court judge for North Carolina’s 26th District Court, in Charlotte, N.C. From 2001 to 2008 and previously 1994 to 1997, she was an attorney at Charlotte D. Brown, in Rockingham, N.C. From 1998 to 2001, she was an executive assistant to the president and general counsel at Livingston College, in Salisbury, N.C. From 1991 to 1992, she served as a public defender at the Public Defender’s Office, in Fayetteville, N.C. From 1990 to 1991, she was an associate attorney at Stroock, Stroock & Lavan, in New York, N.Y. Judge Brown is a member of the Connecticut, New York, and North Carolina State Bars.

— more —

Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs

EOIR Swears in Nine Immigration Judges Page 3

Charles R. Conroy, Immigration Judge, New York City Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Charles R. Conroy to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge Conroy earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1993 from St. Michael’s College and a Juris Doctor in 1999 from Vermont Law School. From 2016 to 2017 he was a supervising attorney in the Immigration Law Unit of The Legal Aid Society, in New York, N.Y. From 2013 to 2016, he was an immigration attorney at the Law Offices of Charles R. Conroy, PLLC, in New York. From 2012 to 2013, he was an immigration staff attorney at the Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem, also in New York. From 2006 to 2012, he was an immigration staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association Inc., in Orlando, Fla. From 2005 to 2006, he was a securities attorney in the Corporate Law Department of AEGON USA Inc., in St. Petersburg, Fla. In 2004, he was an associate attorney at Tabas Freedman, in Miami, Fla. From 2001 to 2004, he was a securities enforcement attorney at Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, in Montpelier, Vt. From 2000 to 2001, he was an associate attorney at Wick and Maddocks P.C., in Burlington, Vt. From 2008 to 2011, he was an adjunct professor of law at the Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law, Barry University, in Orlando. Judge Conroy is a member of the Florida, New York, and Vermont State Bars, and the District of Columbia Bar.

Maria E. Navarro, Immigration Judge, New York City Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Maria E. Navarro to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge Navarro earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1985 from Fordham University and a Juris Doctor in 1992 from New York University School of Law. From 1996 to 2017, she worked at The Legal Aid Society, in New York, N.Y., serving as a staff attorney, 1996 to 2008; a supervising attorney, 2008 to 2016; and an acting attorney-in-charge, 2016 to 2017. From 2008 to 2016, she was a supervising attorney at The Legal Aid Society. From 1994 to 1996, she was a staff attorney at Brooklyn Legal Services, Corporation B, in Brooklyn, N.Y. From 1992 to 1994, she was a tax associate at Coopers & Lybrand, in New York, N.Y. From 1996 to 2016, she was an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School. Judge Navarro is a member of the New York State Bar.

Charles M. McCullough, Immigration Judge, San Antonio Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Charles M. McCullough to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge McCullough earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1982 from the College of the Holy Cross and a Juris Doctor in 1985 from the Gonzaga University School of Law. From 1991 to 2017 he worked for the Washington State Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, in Olympia, Wash., serving as a hearings industrial appeal judge, 1991 to 1992; a mediation and review judge, 1992 to 1998; a review assistant chief industrial appeals judge, 1998 to 2002; and a senior assistant chief industrial appeals judge, 2002 to 2017. From 1988 to 1991, he served as an assistant attorney general for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, in Tacoma, Wash. Judge McCullough is a member of the Washington State Bar.

Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs

— more —

EOIR Swears in Nine Immigration Judges Page 4

Patrick S. O’Brien, Immigration Judge, San Francisco Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Patrick S. O’Brien to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge O’Brien earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1995 from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and a Juris Doctor in 2000 from University of California, Hastings College of the Law. From 2009 to 2017, he served as an assistant chief counsel for the Office of Chief Counsel, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, in San Francisco. From 2001 to 2017, he worked for the U.S. Army Judge

Advocate General’s Corp, entering as a student in 2001; serving as a legal assistance attorney in Korea, 2002 to 2003; trial counsel in Fort Lewis, Wash., and Iraq, 2003 to 2004; as trial defense counsel in Fort Lewis and Afghanistan, 2004 to 2007; special assistant U.S. attorney in Fort Lewis, 2007 to 2008; senior defense counsel, U.S. Army Reserve, 2009 to 2014; a brigade judge advocate, U.S. Army Reserve, 2014 to 2016; and currently as an adjunct professor of international and operational law. Judge O’Brien is a member of the California State Bar.

Joseph Y. Park, Immigration Judge, San Francisco Immigration Court

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Joseph Y. Park to begin hearing cases in August 2017. Judge Park earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1994 from Amherst College and a Juris Doctor in 2002 from the University of Washington School of Law. From 2003 to 2017, he worked for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, in San Francisco, serving as an assistant chief counsel, 2003 to 2007; a senior attorney, 2007 to 2011; and a deputy chief counsel, Office of Chief Counsel, 2011 to 2017. From 2002 to 2003, he served as an assistant district counsel for the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, Department of Justice, in San Francisco, entering on duty through the Attorney General’s Honors Program. Judge Park is a member of the California State Bar.

— EOIR —

Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs

EOIR ISSUES “OPPM” ON CONTINUANCES — APPARENT ATTEMPT TO SHIFT FOCUS AWAY FROM POLITICALLY MOTIVATED “ADR” THAT IS CAUSING MASSIVE BACKLOGS!

Here is the text of the OPPM:

oppm_17-01

************************************************

My Comments:

  1. There are lots areas where U.S. Immigration Judges, particularly new ones, could use training. Applying the asylum standards of proof set forth in Cardoza-Fonseca and Mogharrabi, properly applying the presumption based on past persecution in 8 CFR 1208.13, adjudicating “other serious harm” claims, insuring that requests for corroboration are “reasonable,” making credibility determinations on the basis of the record as a whole and all relevant factors, and understanding and properly applying the complex concepts of “divisibility,” categorical approach,” and “modified categorical approach” in criminal-related cases immediately come to mind. Adjudicating motions to continue doesn’t jump out at me as an area where guidance is particularly necessary. In fact, I never really met an Immigration Judge who didn’t have a pretty good sense of what the criteria were for continuances.
  2. The OPPM blows by the real reason why the dockets are a mess: politically motivated “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” (“ADR”) caused by ever changing political priorities in Immigration Court. Shifting Immigration Judges from previously-scheduled “Merits Hearings” to “Master Calendars” for recently arrived aliens, detainees who needn’t be in detention, and juveniles, has resulted in perhaps hundreds of thousands of “ready for trial” cases being “orbited” to largely imaginary merits hearing dates years from now.
  3. The OPPM falsely suggests that Immigration Judges have control over their dockets. But, individual Immigration Judges were stripped of any real semblance of docket control years ago. That’s the major problem causing backlogs. It’s not uncommon for Immigration Judges to find themselves detailed to other courts or shifted to other priorities without any meaningful input and sometimes with minimal advance notice. Ask the many private attorneys in New York, Chicago, and other major locations who arrive at long-ago-scheduled merits hearing, witnesses in tow, only to find out the Immigration Judge has been “reassigned” without advance notice, and that their cases are likely to go back to Master Calendar again for assignment of yet another Merits Hearing date with another judge years in the future. And, given the documented inconsistencies in adjudication results, particularly in asylum cases, among U.S. Immigration Judges, don’t think that re-assignment to a “new” Immigration Judge is a “neutral” occurrence. In all too many cases, it’s “outcome determinative.”
  4. The OPPM falsely suggests that continuances are largely a “scheme” by private attorneys to “game the system.” Undoubtedly, respondents sometimes do benefit by delays — many of which are actually caused not by them but by the internal procedures of EOIR and DOJ. They just take advantage of that which the system at the administrative/political level of DOJ/EOIR offers them. But, there are probably just as many private attorneys who have been trying for years to get their clients’ cases to trial, only to be “stiffed” by the politicos ultimately in charge of the system. Individual Immigration Judges are more often than not merely the “bearers of bad news” over which they have no personal control (but do get some of the flack).
  5. The OPPM appears to be directed at overburdened, overworked, under-appreciated NGOs who have been “hosed around” by the politicos at DOJ and EOIR Headquarters. They have been forced to race to cover “new priority” cases at the border, in detention, or on accelerated dockets while back at the “home court” their non-detained “ready for trial” cases are being “orbited” to dockets years in the future. Moreover, it is well-known the there is a high rate of turnover among NGO and pro bono group attorneys. Therefore the DOJ/EOIR tactics are designed to “wear down” pro bono representatives, thus forcing individuals to abandon representation or go unrepresented. This, in turn, all but guarantees failure of their claims. Indeed, the recent NWIRP litigation has made it clear that DOJ and EOIR are willing to bend the existing regulations to threaten or penalize those trying to provide pro bono assistance. http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/07/29/eoir-pro-bono-representation-u-s-district-judge-richard-m-jones-rips-eoirs-violation-of-1st-amendment-common-sense-nwirp-v-sessions-wd-wa/.
  6. The OPPM also falsely suggests that DHS only rarely asks for continuances. Not true! DHS has a steady stream of reasons for requesting continuances including such “administratively fixable” things as: lost or missing files, sick attorneys, shortage of staff, missing fingerprints, changing priorities, ongoing investigations, new charges of removability, training, details, need to review exhibits lost in the mail, etc. Moreover, as recently documented by TRAC, the Trump Administration’s abandonment of a sensible use of “prosecutorial discretion” to get low priority cases off the Immigration Court docket is compounding the backlog issue. Additionally, the reported DHS unwillingness to stipulate to issues and grants of relief has caused many cases that could have been completed at Master Calendar or on “short docket” to be set for 3-4 hour merits hearing blocks instead.
  7. Oh, and lets not forget that docket problems are also aggravated by the byzantine, glacial, yet one-sided hiring process for Immigration Judges developed and administered by DOJ largely in response to political abuse of the hiring system by the Bush-era DOJ. Additionally, DOJ & EOIR have failed to anticipate problems caused by predictable loss of experienced judges to retirement, and they have failed to fill the additional positions allocated by Congress in a timely fashion.
  8. NOTE TO REPORTERS IN THE AUDIENCE: Don’t be fooled or “taken in” by this smokescreen. Faced with exposure of chronic problems, it’s a “bureaucratic norm” within DOJ and EOIR, as well as a specialty of the Trump Administration, to attempt to shift attention and blame elsewhere. Don’t fall for it! The “real story” here is in the absolute mess that political meddling at the DOJ has made, and continues to make, out of sound docket management and due process in the U.S. Immigration Courts and the unwillingness and inability of the politicos to fix the problems they have created or aggravated. No OPPM or series of “administrative band aids” is going to fix this broken system. We need an Article I U.S. Immigration Court now!
  9. Other than that, I loved the OPPM.

PWS

08-02-17