New IJs in Jena
On Friday, September 28, 2018, the Executive Office for Immigration Review ("EOIR" - pronounced "Eeyore" like the Winnie the Pooh character) announced the hiring and assignment of 46 new immigration judges ("IJ"). Of those 46, four were assigned to the LaSalle Immigration Court in Jena, Louisiana, the middle-of-nowhere location of the GEO run (for profit) ICE detention center where so many immigrants arrested in Arkansas are separated from their families and detained.
The LaSalle court has been operating for well over a year, with EOIR often flying IJs to Jena to manage the docket a few days to a few weeks at a time to begin and then transferring management of the court to the Miami Immigration Court. The Miami court's IJs would appear via televideo alongside ICE trial attorneys and other court staff, including interpreters.
Miami's management ended mere weeks ago and now we have what we presume to be full-time IJs, living in and around Jena, hearing cases in person.
To anyone following the immigration courts the last decade or more, it will not come as a surprise to learn that most of the 46 IJs are former ICE trial attorneys. While there have been numerous former ICE attorneys who have gone on to become excellent, fair-minded IJs, nothing in this latest round of appointments will do anything to dispel the perception (and some might say, reality) that the immigration courts, especially those operating in detention centers, are anything more than another enforcement arm of the deportation machine, but there's nothing wrong with giving new judges the benefit of the doubt.
For anyone who thinks it's unfair to call the immigration courts biased,
I give you Exhibit A, the USA's racist grandpa, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III, the guy in charge of them.
Our new LaSalle IJs are:
Grady A. Crooks: The unfortunate surname aside, Judge Crooks served nearly his entire career as an attorney for the Air Force, including tours of duty in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This guy's been around. He's also the only new LaSalle IJ not to have worked for ICE prior to being appointed. His most recent position was as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana. He graduated with a B.S. from North Dakota State University in 1996, obtained a M.A. from George Washington University in 1999 and received his J.D. from Rutgers University in 2004.
Steven B. Fuller: Judge Fuller graduated with his B.A. from Auburn University in 1997 and received his J.D. from Regent University School of Law in 2000. Like Judge Crooks, Judge Fuller is a veteran, serving as a JAG lawyer in the Army from 2001 to 2008. He was also a trial attorney for ICE twice, both times at the famous Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. He also spent some time in private practice in Texas, so he seems to bring some very well-rounded experience to the table.
Brent H. Landis: An eighteen-year veteran of ICE, Judge Landis graduated from DePaul University with a J.D. in 1985. The year I was born, 1982, he graduated with his B.S. from Metropolitan State University. Also, a veteran of the Air Force's JAG corps, Judge Landis is the most experienced attorney to be appointed to the bench in Jena.
Cassie A. Thogersen: Judge Thogersen has an interesting and diverse background. Like judges Fuller and Landis, she is a veteran of ICE, having practiced from 2008 to 2018 with the Oakdale, LA detained docket. Before that though, she was an attorney with the Department of Health and Human Services where she gained experience prosecuting domestic violence cases. She graduated with her undergraduate degree from Southeastern Louisiana University before earning a master's degree in social work from Washington University in 1996. She graduated with her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1999.
It won't take us much longer to get to know these IJs personally. They all take the bench this month, October 2018, when they'll start hearing bond and removal hearings.