OIG Scrutinizes Immigration Court Practices in Report

The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is “a statutorily created independent entity whose mission is to detect and deter waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct in DOJ programs and personnel, and to promote economy and efficiency in those programs.” In other words, OIG evaluates how well departments within the DOJ operate, shining a public light on certain questionable practices when necessary. This was precisely the case on November 1st, when OIG released a fairly scathing report about the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which conducts immigration court cases, appellate review, and administrative hearings. The report questioned the methods used by EOIR to tabulate case processing data, making it appear EOIR processed more cases and processed them faster than it actually did.

The full report also contained a written volley between EOIR’s rebuttal to the draft report, and OIG’s response to EOIR’s rebuttal. Rising above the politics of government bureaucracy though, was the acknowledgement by EOIR that indeed, it could do better. OIG recommend nine ways for EOIR to improve its case processing and ensure the data provided to various agencies (and the public) better reflect and improve its case management:

1. EOIR data should distinguish the decisions made on removal of aliens from other case activities;

2. EOIR data should reflect the actual (total) case length, especially where multiple courts have been involved in its life cycle;

3. EOIR data should eliminate case exemptions from the completion goals;

4. EOIR should develop case completion goals for non-detained cases and for asylum applications that have not been filed;

5. EOIR should analyze reasons for continuances and develop guidance that provides immigration judges with standards and guidelines for granting continuances in order to reduce lengthy case delays;

6. EOIR should develop a process for tracking the time that immigration judges spend on different types of cases and work activities in order to better allocate its resources;

7. EOIR should collect and track data on its use of staffing details of judges;

8. EOIR should develop an objective staffing model to gauge proper staffing requirements and the allocation of positions among immigration courts; and,

9. EOIR should seek additional resources, or reallocate existing resources, in order for BIA to more timely process appeals for non-detained aliens and improve the collection, tracking, and reporting of appeal statistics to accurately reflect actual appeal processing times.

The most important aspect of this report, IMHO, was the fact that EOIR received the benefit of an independent auditor’s recommendations (albeit very publicly). All too often, in our everyday practice, we fall into the trappings of running a legal practice or a legal service organization. Mired in every-day tasks, we easily lose sight of the big-picture, practice management. If you took a step back for a moment to evaluate your organization, how effective are your internal procedures? Do they hinder or promote efficiency? What recommendations would an independent auditor make if one evaluated your organization?

If you’re reading this blog, you’re headed in the right direction to finding practice tips. Last week, two of the country’s elite immigration practitioners offered their tips on how they run an efficient law practice. We hope you’ll take a moment to hear what they said during last week’s webinar. Stay tuned for more immigration practice updates and news. Please subscribe to our newsletter for special webinar invitations and news alerts.