Judge Brian O'Leary of the federal immigration court in Arlington, Va., has been named chief immigration judge in the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Justice Department announced today. O'Leary has served as an immigration judge in Arlington since May 2007.
He is a former temporary member of the Board of Immigration Appeals and was the deputy chief immigration judge in the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge from March 2003 to May 2006. O’Leary, a member of the Massachusetts and Florida bars, spent five years working in the general counsel’s office of what was then called the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The chief immigration judge sets priorities for the more than 200 immigration judges across the country in addition to providing program direction, policy and procedure, according to the Justice Department. Immigration judges preside over removal disputes involving foreign-born individuals charged with violating immigration law. They are civil service employees who work under the umbrella of the Justice Department.
A message left with O’Leary’s office was not immediately returned this afternoon.
Appointments to the immigration court came under fire in 2007 and 2008 following revelations that the Justice Department during the tenure of attorneys general John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales was using political factors in reviewing candidates for immigration judges. The Legal Times in May 2007 examined the politicization of immigration judgeships.
A hiring freeze was in place between December 2006 and April 2007 due to a discrimination suit filed by an immigration law prosecutor in El Paso, Texas.The DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility and the Office of the Inspector General explored the politics of immigration judge appointments in a report published in July 2008. A copy of the report is here.