Much Press Coverage for a Single ALJ in the Immigration Field

By David North on November 13, 2015

There's a remarkable bit of press coverage currently available (behind a pay wall) regarding a relatively new administrative law judge working in the immigration field for the Department of Justice, and her first five decisions in a year on the bench.

She is Judge Stacy Paddack, one of two ALJs on the staff of the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO), and her work has been dissected (in a friendly way) by Law360, a press service that focuses on legal matters.

Judge Paddack attracted a little attention earlier this year when she criticized a Louisiana employer's lawyer for a "blatant act of plagiarism". The lawyer had copied something from the USCIS webpage without attribution.

The Louisiana Crane Company was charged not for hiring illegal aliens, but for asking too many questions of its workers about their legal status. OCAHO handles both types of cases.

The employer's lawyer seems to have lost at least part of his or her case when Judge Paddack ruled "Respondent's motion to interplead USCIS as a counter respondent through a counter-complaint is DENIED." I will not try to explain that.

In four other cases examined by Law360 the judge has "shown a preference for shrinking the large fines sought by the government". Each of those cases involved charges that employers did not follow the law regarding their hiring practices, in which they are supposed to take certain steps to make sure that they have hired only legal workers.

These four rulings, though the article does not say so, are in the grand, easy-on-the-employer tradition of this little court, as I reported two years ago. Maybe her pro-open-borders decisions in five consecutive cases is an accurate reflection of the new judge's views — or maybe not — but it is a very small sampling of the agency's workload.

I have to think that the small number of decisions she handed down must be due to it being her first year on the job, which presumably involved a lot of training. On the other hand, there is a sharp contrast between the number of decisions she made and the number that immigration judges have to make all the time. An immigration judge hearing "merits" cases – i.e., deciding whether aliens can stay in the country or must be kicked out – often hears (and decides) two to four cases a day.

Judge Paddack's workload involves employers and much process, though the outcome is virtually always a matter of how much money an employer is fined. The IJ's workload is much more gut-wrenching, involving as it does a serious decision about an alien's life: Should he be allowed to stay, despite whatever he did to draw the attention of the government, or should he be deported? (Most of those in the dock are males.)

So why are these two types of cases given such remarkably different amounts of ALJ time by the Justice Department? In a different world, as much time would be spent on the deportation/non-deportation issue as, for example, one of Judge Paddack's cases when the earth-shattering question was whether an erring employer was to be charged $1,776 (love that number) or $500. She chose the latter.

For those interested in reading OCAHO decisions and other rulings, see here.