A guest post today for AILA Board of Governor Member Amy Peck:
The EOIR swore in 10 new Immigration Judges this week. The April 24, 2009 EOIR announcement states that the judges were appointed by the Attorney General after completing a rigorous application, evaluation, and interview process. Under the previous administration, the selection process was heavily slanted towards those with previous trial attorney experience, or prosecutor experience. Few if any private practice attorneys were selected to be Immigration Judges in a process that claimed to be fair but proved otherwise. This may be changing.
Of the 10 Immigration Judges selected in the most recent selection process, one judge (Lourdes Martinez-Esquivel) had over 13 years in private practice as an immigration attorney, with no previous government counsel experience. Five others had some private practice experience, although none of these five were in private practice over 4 years, and the majority had only 2 years or less experience. Four of the 10 new judges had no private practice experience. Significantly, nine of the 10 judges selected had previous trial attorney, prosecutor, or Office of Immigration Litigation experience.
The EOIR has taken steps in the past year to address many systemic problems which had seriously undermined fairness. Measures have been taken to increase training for judges, implement a judicial complaint system, and proactively manage problems that arise. That said, fairness will never be achieved unless the judicial selection process results in a balanced bench, comprised of both former government attorneys and private practice attorneys. The Department of Justice’s selections are still skewed too much toward favoring previous government experience. While the selection of one career private practice immigration attorney is an improvement, I would encourage the DOJ to open up the selection process even more to qualified individuals not following the government attorney career path.