When noncitizens and their advocates experience immigration judges behaving inappropriately, they may submit administrative complaints about that misconduct. Such complaints are sent to the Executive Office of Immigration Review (“EOIR”), a division of the Department of Justice that oversees the immigration courts. However, EOIR’s process for investigating complaints and making decisions about what—if any—disciplinary steps to take against an immigration judge accused of misconduct is opaque and only infrequently results in any action. Publicly-available data from EOIR shows that in 2022, 65% of complaints against immigration judges were dismissed, 28% resulted in corrective actions, and only 1% resulted in discipline.
On March 24, 2023, NYLAG’s Special Litigation Unit (“SLU”) and Immigrant Protection Unit (“IPU”) submitted a Freedom of Information (“FOIA”) request to EOIR, seeking records relating to how EOIR, the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility (“OPR”), and the immigration courts in New York City receive and process complaints submitted against immigration judges.
Specifically, NYLAG’s FOIA sought information about how EOIR’s complaint process works, including how complaints are processed, how determinations are made, and the kinds of disciplinary actions that are and can be taken against immigration judges. NYLAG’s FOIA also sought data on the results of all complaints against immigration judges in New York City from 2020 until the present, as well as copies of all complaints about immigration judges that EOIR has received since 2020.
In response, EOIR produced the Standard Operating Procedure for the Judicial Conduct and Professionalism Unit (the unit in charge of investigating complaints at EOIR), training materials for immigration judges about professionalism and the complaint process, summaries of all complaints against immigration judges in the New York immigration courts. The summaries describe the nature of the complaints and record the disposition, although the name of the judge subject to the complaint was redacted.
Because these materials are likely of interest to other advocates and practitioners, and to the public at large, NYLAG is sharing the materials received from EOIR in the following Document Library.
1) JCPU Standard Operating Procedure: Guide to Judicial Conduct and Professionalism Unit’s tasks, including the process for all complaints received.
2) EOIR’s Judicial Conduct and Professionalism Unit, New Supervisory Judge Training (Slideshow): Training for new supervisory judges on how the complaint process operates. Includes two virtually identical iterations of the training:
- January 3-5, 2023. Pages 1-20.
- April 26-29, 2021. Pages 21-40.
3) Professionalism: Immigration Judge Performance and Conduct (Slideshow):
Professional Training 1, Training 2, Training 3.
Training for new judges on professionalism standards. NYLAG received three virtually identical iterations of the same training. Notably, this training includes the following information:
- Procedure for Handling Complaints Concerning EOIR Adjudicators: Provides a flowchart explaining the various components of the complaint process.
- Possible Complaint Dispositions: Lists possible dispositions, although does not describe these dispositions. Document #1, pages 15-17.
- 2015-2019 Statistics: Data on immigration judge complaints, including the number of open, closed, and pending in fiscal years 2015-2019. Document #1, pages 18-23.
- Disciplinary Actions, Penalties, Processes: Lists possible disciplinary actions and penalties, although does not describe these actions or penalties. Document #1, pages 26-31.
- OPR’s Jurisdiction and Processes: Describes the process by which OPR deals with complaints against immigration judges. Document #1, pages 33-44.
4) Actions For Processing Complaints Against Immigration Judges (Single-page document): Shows the process for initial processing, OPR/OIG processing, dispositions when the complaint is dismissed or concluded, options for corrective or disciplinary action, and subsequent actions.
5) Judicial Complaint Process (February 2023): EOIR document describing the judicial complaint process.
6) Immigration Judge Advanced Training: Professionalism (November 8, 2022) (Slideshow): Training for experienced judges on professionalism standards.
7) Complaint Summaries: Summaries or reports of thirty judicial complaints against immigration judges in New York City. Note that Complaints 15, 20, and 27 are entirely redacted under Exemptions 5 and 6.