Immigration judge off bench while broader U.S. review continues


PHILADELPHIA – One U.S. immigration judge is
off the bench and others could follow in the wake of blistering federal
court rebukes about the treatment of asylum seekers.

Donald V.
Ferlise has been replaced on the court calendar in Philadelphia while
the U.S. attorney general conducts a nationwide review of immigration
judges, who decide who can stay in the United States to avoid turmoil
in their homelands.

Several of the
judges have been the subjects of angry appellate court rulings. In
Ferlise’s case, the increasingly strident 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals took aim at his demeanor.

“Yet once
again, under the ‘bullying’ nature of the immigration judge’s
questioning, a petitioner was ground to bits,” U.S. Circuit Judge
Maryanne Trump Barry wrote in a ruling this spring.

In rulings that
were overturned in recent years, Ferlise denied asylum to the nephew of
a deposed Gambian president, to a Pakistani woman whose father was
killed in sectarian violence and to a young Ghanian woman who said her
priest-father held her as a sex slave.

Ferlise denied
even the formality of a hearing for a Jordanian college student who
failed to register under a post-Sept. 11, 2001, program for men from
mostly Muslim countries, saying he had already decided the case.

Ferlise, 62,
did not return calls to his home and Philadelphia office this week. His
lawyer, Ralph Conte, said Ferlise remains employed by the Executive
Office of Immigration Review.

Local immigration lawyers say Ferlise stopped hearing cases a few weeks ago.

William Stock,
who heads the Philadelphia chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers
Association, said Ferlise was “deeply untrusting” of testimony from

“He had a very
hard time finding a lot of people credible,” Stock said. “I think, too,
a lot of his decisions seemed to reflect that he had a very limited
experience of the world.”

The Justice
Department supervises about 215 immigration judges around the country
who oversee the nation’s teeming immigration courts. The department
called Ferlise’s job status a personnel matter and would not say if he
will return to the bench. The Executive Office of Immigration Review
also declined to say if other judges have been disciplined since
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales began a review this year.

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