As a series of court decisions from around the country have made clear, our immigration courts — the administrative bodies that, among other things, hear asylum applications — are a disgrace. The major cause is underfunding, requiring the Immigration Judges to shoulder huge caseloads and make decisions at a speed that probably makes quality work next to impossible.
But even the pressures of the job don't excuse the conduct documented in Apouviepseakoda v. Gonzales, 05-3752 (7th Cir., Feb. 2, 2007). Nor, given that the Seventh Circuit has all the time it wants to reach a decision, does it excuse the majority decision to defer to an arbitrary and capricious decision. Judge Posner's dissent is far more persuasive than Judge Evans for the majority — although Posner here fails to persuade Judge Easterbrook, who is the third vote.
Posner points up errors of logic, and notes a judicial demeanor from hell, which together suggest that this was not a fair hearing. The best the majority can say is that the decision, although “odd” is not “so deeply flawed” as to be reversible. If we take it at face value, this looks like the rare case which turned on how deferential a reviewing court should be. But one could be forgiven for reading it as showing a great reluctance on the part of some judges to admit just how bad things are in some IJ's hearing rooms, for to do so would be to open the floodgates to immigration petitions and reversals.