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Pro Bono Victory Protects National Association of Immigration Judges

August 3, 2020
Bay Area team helps preserve rights and independence of immigration judges.

A pro bono team based in the Bay Area secured a victory on behalf of the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ), a union that promotes “independence and enhance[es] the professionalism, dignity, and efficiency of the Immigration Court.” The US Department of Justice (DOJ) had been trying to decertify the union for more than a year, which the union viewed as an extension of broader efforts to encroach upon judicial independence. The matter dovetailed with Latham’s pro bono immigration practice, through which our lawyers — for more than 20 years — have represented thousands of refugees, asylum seekers, human trafficking survivors, and others seeking refuge and to vindicate their rights.  

Immigration judges are housed in the DOJ, which claimed that immigration judges were managers and thus could not belong to a union. In contrast to other types of judges, such as federal judges, immigration judges do not have tenure, so the NAIJ helps protect the judges’ jobs and safeguards their legal rights. 

After an intense live hearing and extensive post-hearing briefing, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) official who heard the case agreed with the firm’s arguments, which relied on past precedent and argued that judges are not management officials. (FLRA is the legal body that adjudicates issues for federal employees.) As a result of the ruling, the union can continue to look after its members and its members can focus on hearing cases and other judicial matters. The case has been covered by Law360 and The American Lawyer
Led by partners Margaret Tough and Steve Bauer, the Latham team included associates Abigail Parr, Andrea Olson, Patrick Johnson, and Lauren Deife; and paralegal Robert Daniel.