Retired judges protesting DOJ’s involvement in deportation case

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A group of retired judges signed on to an open letter on Monday accusing the Justice Department of inappropriately intervening in a court case to get a man deported. 

The 15 former judges are claiming the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) improperly removed an immigration judge from a Philadelphia deportation case in order to replace him with a judge who immediately ordered the defendant be deported. They are claiming this intervention amounts to judicial interference. 

“EOIR more than ever needs leadership with the courage to protect its judges from political pressures and to defend their independence,” the judges wrote in the letter. “As a democracy, we expect our judges to reach results based on what is just, even where such results are not aligned with the desired outcomes of politicians.” 


The EOIR removed Judge Steven Morley from a case involving Reynaldo Castro-Tum earlier this year. The retired judges are claiming Morley was removed and replaced with Deepali Nadkarni, an assistant chief immigration judge, because he gave Castro-Trum the benefit of the doubt when he did not show up to his court proceedings, according to BuzzFeed

Morley suspended the case based on “administrative closure,” meaning he called into question whether the respondent had received notice of the hearing, according to the letter. 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions referred Castro-Tum’s case to himself in May and ultimately wrote an opinion that would restrict the use of “administrative closures.” 

“Last Thursday’s case had been remanded by Attorney General Jeff Sessions,” the judges wrote. “In the absence of another explanation, it would seem that EOIR’s management did not believe Sessions’ purpose in remanding the case was for an Immigration Judge to then exercise independent judgment to ensure due process.”

“The agency therefore removed the case from the docket of a capable judge in order to ensure an outcome that would please its higher-ups,” the letter continues.

The Department of Justice declined to comment to BuzzFeed on the letter.

Jeffrey Chase, a former immigration judge, told BuzzFeed that he believes Morley was removed “because he had the courage to exercise his independent judgment in the pursuit of a fair result.” 

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