Secrecy Shrouds Case that Pitted Iranian-American IJ Against Her Bosses

By David North on November 17, 2015

Perhaps it is a fantasy, but it would be nice if more immigration-related civil law suits went to trial and we could all hear the evidence and the judge's decision.

Instead they often get settled, and the settlement is kept secret.

That's what happened earlier this month in an odd case in which an Iranian-American immigration judge sued her bosses in the U.S. Department of Justice. As we reported in an earlier posting, Judge Ashley Tabbador of the Los Angeles immigration court sued the attorney general (her ultimate boss) when intermediary bosses decided that she should not hear cases involving Iranians.

They took this action after she went to a White House meeting as a representative of an Iranian-American group; they did this even though she used a vacation day for the meeting and cleared the invitation with her leaders at the Executive Office for Immigration Review. The edict on the national background of the aliens she was allowed to judge was purely symbolic, as I noted at the time. Less than 1 percent of the courts' workload consists of people from that country and they have a high percentage of approvals, largely because of the terrible way Iran treats members of the Baha'i faith.

Unfortunately none of the behind-the-courtroom linens in this case ever were aired in public. The judge and her bosses have come to a settlement, which presumably leaves her on the bench and otherwise preserves the status quo.

For some of the documents on her case, but not the settlement, see this website run by her lawyers in the case, Cooley, LLP.

[Update: CIS has learned that the contents of the settlement in this case have been released, though they do not appear in the set of documents on PACER, the courts' electronic data system. Judge Tabaddor got a clean bill of health from her employers, the Executive Office of Immigration Review, and the Justice Department agreed to pay her legal fees of $200,000, according to her lawyer's website.]

In other potentially interesting civil suits, such as those charging one of the Indian outsourcing firms with discrimination on the basis of age, we hear about the filing, but later the company pays off the citizen who complained and pays his or her lawyers' fees, obtaining total secrecy in the process.

Justice for the private parties may prevail in these civil cases, but serious public policy issues are simply covered up by large black judicial robes.

This does not happen in settlements for criminal cases; in those there usually is a longish plea bargain that is a public document.