How Bad Is the Immigration Bar?

In an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend, law professor Benjamin Edwards is pretty blunt: “Immigrants Need Better Protection — From Their Lawyers”. As he explains:

As a group, the private immigration bar now contains the worst lawyers in all of law. A 2011 survey of federal judges by Richard Posner and Albert Yoon found that, of all practice areas appearing in federal courts, immigration lawyers provided the lowest-quality representation. In another 2011 survey, 31 immigration judges in New York classified nearly half of the attorneys appearing before them as either inadequate or grossly inadequate. A 2015 study found that immigrants would be better off without an attorney than entrusting their fate to the bottom 10% of immigration lawyers.

This is not exactly a glowing portrait of my colleagues, but it is at least objective and fair. That said, however, some caveats are in order.

I have served as an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) trial attorney in two cities, San Francisco and Baltimore, and appeared in a handful of others. I also sat as an immigration judge (IJ) in York, Pa. The quality of the bar varied greatly, not just within each court, but among the courts in which I was assigned.

I can confidently state that the majority of the lawyers who appeared before me in York were more than competent: Most were prepared, respectful, and honest. A few were exceptional.

I also think it is fair to say that my colleagues and I each ran what is known in the law as a “hot bench”: We familiarized ourselves with the facts of the cases and the applicable law from the initial master calendar hearings, and we expected the lawyers who appeared before us (both private and government) to do the same. York is a “detained” court, meaning that all the aliens in proceedings there are detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and continuances for preparation cost the government money and the alien time.

There were a few notable exceptions: attorneys who would make nonsensical or plainly unsupported arguments, who were obviously not familiar with their clients’ claims, or who were abusive to the court staff. They were far and away the outliers, however, and were notable because of that fact.

Read Full Article HERE

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