How Bad Does an Immigration Judge Have to be to Get Reversed?

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.

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3 Responses to How Bad Does an Immigration Judge Have to be to Get Reversed?

  1. Matt says:

    There are _lots_ of problems with immigration courts. You can notice a problem in the fact that the grant rates for asylum claims vary _wildly_ from judge to judge, with some judges granting a high percentage, 80% or more, some in the middle, and several rejecting 90% or more of the claims. Is it possible that they just get different groups? Not very likely. But, it’s also clear to me (after reading more than a hundred asylum cases) that the federal judges also don’t properly apply the standards of review. Sometimes, such as in a case I worked a bit on, you have famous conservative 9th cir. judges wanting to ignore Chevron and ignore well established agency determinations that obviously fit within the scope of agency discretion because they don’t like the case. More often they get the “compelling evidence” standard of review wrong, taking that to mean that they can only reverse when there is compelling evidence of a determination (that the applicant faced persecution, say) rather than the proper way of needing compelling evidence _that a well-founded fear of persecution_ was faced. the first is a very high burden, but the second isn’t that high, since all that’s needed is compelling evidence that a very low burden has been met. But, often enough that’s not how things are done. The federal courts, right up to the supreme court, are full of really bad immigration decisions as well.

  2. Bad court decisions are not limited to immigration cases. Even favorable decisions are sometimes reached for the wrong reasons. Whether it is a high profile case attracting media attention or the pursuit of justice in one’s personal affairs, the process presents a puzzling array of obstacles. Finding redress or remedy through the courts is often stopped before it begins. Leaving an unresolved issue in its wake.

  3. christina says:

    i have been married to my husband for 19 years and the judge is not even hearing my side for him to stay if my husband trys to talk he cuts him off he has court on dec 20 if any one out there is willing to help please let know at i do not have money im doing everything to keep a roof over my kids heads if there is a laywer out there that would help me please let me know thank u

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