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New EOIR Policies to Address “Dark Courtrooms”

The director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) recently issued a policy memorandum that is designed to address “dark” or unused courtrooms in immigration courts nationwide. The policies outlined in this memorandum were to take effect May 1, 2019.

The memo noted that as of July 2017, more than 100 immigration courtrooms were not in use on Fridays. The director attributed these “lost opportunities” to delays in hiring more judges and overlapping alternative work schedules. The memo goes on to set forth various policies for ensuring that all available courtrooms are being used every day during normal operating hours.

More specifically, the director stated that EOIR would take the appropriate steps to address gaps in court scheduling so that they no longer exist, well in advance of any planned hearings. Nonetheless, the director went on to formalize the policy that there should never be an unused court room any day of the week during normal business hours, unless there a judge is unavailable. If judges are not physically available, the director continued, then they should be made available by video teleconferencing (VTC).

New EOIR Policies to Address Dark Courtrooms

The memo also informs immigration court judges that those with small dockets may be reassigned to hear cases in other courts with heavier dockets, either in person at nearby courts or via VTC. EOIR also may reassign cases permanently to other courts that have less of a backlog of cases. Judges must hear a sufficient number of cases to ensure that they meet the previously announced performance measures of closing a certain number of cases per year. Furthermore, if an immigration judge continues a hearing more than 30 days prior to the hearing date, then they should make sure that another hearing fills that empty spot in the court schedule. Supervisory immigration judges also are to hear cases at least a minimum number of days per month to help address the dark courtroom issue. In fact, if an immigration judge is not using a courtroom due to administrative duties, then the courtroom should be filled by supervisory judges, judges via VTC, or recently retired immigration judges, some of whom are still hearing cases.

No matter the type of immigration issue you are facing, the skilled and knowledgeable immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland are here to assist you. We handle many different types of immigration cases every day and have the kind of strategic experience and skills that are necessary to reach the desired outcome. By calling our office as quickly as possible after your legal issue arises, we will have the best opportunity to successfully resolve your immigration law case.

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