A group of special interest lawyers who support illegal immigration are pushing the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to produce a list of immigration judges who are hostile to undocumented immigrants.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with DOJ, asking them to produce a list of all ethics and discrimination complaints brought against immigration judges; now, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has authorized publication of the information.
Bush-era Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez began assessing conduct at the Executive Office for Immigration Review in 2006, when he instituted new training and evaluation procedures for all immigration judges, who are career DOJ employees. That work was continued in 2010 by Attorney General Eric Holder, who established a database for tracking complaints against immigration judges. Complaints may be brought for inappropriate or discriminatory conduct inside or outside of the workplace. Non-frivolous complaints are adjudicated by the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge, which determines what disciplinary action, if any, is merited.
AILA asked the Department to release all complaints filed against immigration judges, and all records concerning the resolution of said complaints, according to the FOIA request. DOJ furnished the Association with over 16,000 pages of information, but redacted information it believed to be exempt from FOIA disclosure, including the names of immigration judges. In place of a name, DOJ provided a three digit code to identify the judge subject to a complaint. DOJ lawyers argue that the names of the judges are beyond the reach of FOIA, since such release would infringe their right to privacy.
A three judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District, found in favor of ALIA, ruling that the names of serial offenders ought to be made public. The D.C. Circuit did qualify the ruling, finding that retired immigration judges, or judges with a small number of complaints, may assert a legitimate privacy interest and avoid the disclosure.
“By enabling the public to make such connections, knowing the identity of that judge could shed considerably more light on what the government is up to,” the court’s ruling reads.
“The court’s decision recognizes the significant public interest in learning about complaints against immigration judges, particularly where the complaints concern on-the-bench conduct and judges who are repeat offenders,”said Julie Murray, lead counsel for the Association.
Repeat-offenders on the immigration bench will be identified, pending the outcome of proceedings in the lower court, though the D.C. Circuit’s ruling makes their publication a near certainty.