The National Association of Immigration Judges has filed a formal grievance over the Department of Justice's removal and replacement of a Philadelphia jurist who had delayed the deportation of a Guatemalan immigrant.
Pulling Judge Steven Morley from the case subverted the judicial process, undermined his independence, and impugned his competence and integrity, all to obtain a particular outcome in the case, according to the judges' union labor complaint, Philly.com reported.
"This is a direct interference with a judge's decisional independence," said Ashley Tabaddor, president of the group, and a sitting immigration judge in Los Angeles, the news outlet reported.
The case that sparked the dispute concerned a juvenile Guatemalan national who had been ordered to appear before Philadelphia immigration Judge Steven Morley but failed to do so.
Morley eventually shut down the case, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered him to reopen it. After the judge declined to rule against the juvenile for a second time, Justice Department brass sent an immigration judge from Virginia to Philadelphia to take over — and remove dozens of other cases from his docket, The Hill reported.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Tabaddor revealed DOJ had scrubbed 60 additional cases from Morley's calendar. She described the judge as "enraged" and "disturbed" by his removal but still coming to court and on the job, Philly.com reported.
The conflict has been brewing for years, Ben Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said, The Hill reported — explaining immigration courts were put under the Department of Justice supervision during the government's reorganization after 9/11.
"I don't think much thought went into where the immigration court would be housed," he said, The Hill reported. "Historically, this is something that hasn't gotten a lot of attention."
"The decisions and behavior by the attorney general have shown a spotlight on the fundamental flaws of the system as it exists now," Johnson said.
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