The Beginnings of Working More Closely with Judges

This week was mostly focused on working on my fifth decision, which is an application for asylum where the respondent is from Honduras. I listened to the hearing and then analyzed and re-analyzed the evidence in the record to understand if and how I can grant the respondent’s application for relief. Listening to the eight-hour hearing took up most of the week as I had a few side tasks assigned to me.

One task was to edit a welcome packet for the new law clerks beginning their two-year clerkship in September at the Richmond Immigration Adjudication Center. I went through a welcome packet from a different adjudication center and changed the jurisdiction language where it did not match with the Richmond Adjudication jurisdiction. It was an enjoyable break from working on decisions and reading about situations I cannot even imagine living through.

Another task assigned to me was doing research for a judge on an issue that came up in his case. The issue was related to the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") being able to sua sponte reopen a case after the respondent was physically removed. I enjoyed researching an administrative issue compared to more factual issues as I rarely have had the opportunity to practice administrative research through Westlaw. I conducted the research with another intern, and we compiled the information we found into a memo. We arranged a meeting with the judge to present our research, to which he asked us to send the memo to him to reference while he wrote his decision. I was grateful to be able to dip my toes in the water of collaborating with a judge to assist them in finding answers to time-sensitive problems – with little oversight from my supervisor.

The last task I was asked to complete was unexpected. I was the only legal intern at the office on Friday and no Attorney Advisor was present either. A judge knocked on my office door to ask me to review an aspect of a case he was working on because he was beginning to second guess his decision; the judge was pondering if the respondent established a nexus between their persecution and their protected ground. Of course I accepted the task. At around 12:00PM I began to listen to the hearing and look over the entire record, paying close attention to the issue the judge had been mulling over, trying to determine if the respondent was able to prove nexus between their persecution and their protected ground. I finished reviewing the information and taking notes about three hours later. I decided that I could not find a nexus. This element is the most difficult one to prove and also to analyze, at least for me, so I was a bit nervous and anxious to come to a conclusion to report to the judge – especially since my supervisor, nor any other Attorney Advisor, was at work with which I could run my ideas past. Despite my nerves, I mustered up my courage and spoke to the judge. He said I had some good points and spotted information that he had not noticed. He asked me to write up a memo regarding the nexus section, then asked me to write up a summary of the testimony – which he included in his decision. Though the judge saw my perspective that the nexus was not established, he decided to find there was nexus – based on his point of view and how the respondent deserved to escape and remain far away from what she faced in her home country. At the end of this collaboration, the judge gave me his written decision to proofread, then signed it to say thank you for the help I provided him. He even offered to be a reference for me as I apply for post-graduation jobs. It was a wonderful way to end the week.