Judge Lawrence O. Burman

FY 2009 - 2014, Memphis Immigration Court

Judge Burman was appointed as an Immigration Judge in April 1998. Prior to his appointment at the Immigration Court in Memphis, Judge Burman served as an Immigration Judge at the Immigration Court in Los Angeles from April 1998 to February 2002. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Virginia in 1971, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Maryland in 1978. From 1991 to 1998, Judge Burman worked as an assistant district counsel for the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in Baltimore, Maryland. He served as assistant general counsel at INS Headquarters in Washington, DC, from 1990 to 1991. Judge Burman worked as a general attorney for INS in Baltimore, from 1988 to 1990. From 1978 to 1988, he worked as an attorney in private practice in Baltimore. Judge Burman was in the U.S. Army from 1971 to 1975, and in the Maryland National Guard from 1975 to 1993. He is a member of the Maryland Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Burman decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2009 through the first nine months of 2014. During this period, Judge Burman is recorded as deciding 243 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted 162, gave no conditional grants, and denied 81. Converted to percentage terms, Burman denied 33.3 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 66.7 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Burman's denial rate fiscal year-by-year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)

Nationwide Comparisons

Compared to Judge Burman's denial rate of 33.3 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 48.5 percent of asylum claims. In the Memphis Immigration Court where Judge Burman was based, judges there denied asylum 48 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Burman can also be ranked compared to each of the 270 individual immigration judges serving during this period who rendered at least one hundred decisions in a city's immigration court. If judges were ranked from 1 to 270 - where 1 represented the highest denial percent and 270 represented the lowest - Judge Burman here receives a rank of 221. That is 220 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 49 denied asylum at the same rate or less often. Ranks are tallied separately for each immigration court. Should a judge serve on more than one court during this period, separate ranks would be assigned in any court that the judge rendered at least 100 asylum decisions in.

Why Do Denial Rates Vary Among Judges?

Denial rates reflect in part the differing composition of cases assigned to different immigration judges. For example, being represented in court and the nationality of the asylum seeker appear to often impact decision outcome. Decisions also appear to reflect in part the personal perspective that the judge brings to the bench.

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Figure 3: Asylum Seeker Had Representation

If an asylum seeker is not represented by an attorney, almost all (89%) of them are denied asylum. In contrast, a significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful. In the case of Judge Burman, 8.2% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 14.6% of asylum seekers are not represented.


Asylum seekers are a diverse group. Over one hundred different nationalities had at least one hundred individuals claiming asylum decided during this period. As might be expected, immigration courts located in different parts of the country tend to have proportionately larger shares from some countries than from others. And, given the required legal grounds for a successful asylum claim, asylum seekers from some nations tend to be more successful than others.

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Figure 4: Asylum Decisions by Nationality

For Judge Burman, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came from China. Individuals from this nation made up 35.4 % of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Burman were: El Salvador (9.5 %), Guatemala (8.6%), Venezuela (8.6%), Zimbabwe (6.2%). See Figure 4.

In the nation as a whole during this same period, major nationalities of asylum seekers, in descending order of frequency, were China (28.5%), El Salvador (6.8%), Mexico (5.9%), Guatemala (5.7%), Haiti (3.1%), Honduras (2.9%), India (2.7%), Ethiopia (2.5%), Colombia (2.2%), Nepal (2.1%), Indonesia (1.5%), Eritrea (1.5%), Venezuela (1.5%).

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