Judge V. Stuart Couch
FY 2012 - 2017, Charlotte Immigration Court
Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Judge Couch in October 2010. Judge Couch received a bachelor of arts degree in 1987 from Duke University, a juris doctorate in 1996 from Campbell University, Buies Creek, N.C., and a master of law degree in 2008 from George Washington University Law School. From 2009 to October 2010, he was in private practice in Charlotte, N.C. He served in a succession of assignments for 22 years of active Marine Corps service, including senior appellate judge on the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals in Washington, D.C., from 2006 to 2009. He served as a senior prosecutor, Department of Defense, Office of Military Commissions, Washington, D.C., from 2003 to 2006, military justice officer and chief trial counsel, Camp Lejeune, N.C., from 2001 to 2003, and chief trial counsel, Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C., from 1996 to 1999. He was a legal officer and KC-130 pilot, Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252, Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, from 1989 to 1993. From 1999 to 2000, Judge Couch was in private practice in New Bern, N.C. From 2000 to 2001, he served as an assistant district attorney, Beaufort, N.C. Judge Couch is a member of the North Carolina State Bar.
Deciding Asylum Cases
Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied
Detailed data on Judge Couch decisions were examined for the period covering
fiscal years 2012 through 2017. During this period, Judge
Couch is recorded as deciding 414 asylum claims on their merits. Of these,
he granted 59, gave no conditional grants, and denied 355.
Converted to percentage terms, Couch denied 85.7 percent and granted (including
conditional grants) 14.3 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Couch's
denial rate fiscal year-by-year over this recent period.
Compared to Judge Couch's denial rate of 85.7 percent, nationally
during this same period, immigration court judges denied 52.8 percent
of asylum claims. In the Charlotte Immigration Court where Judge Couch
was based, judges there denied asylum 82.2 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)
Judge Couch can also be ranked compared to each of the 293 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 293 - where 1 represented the highest denial percent and 293
represented the lowest - Judge Couch here receives a rank of 70. That is 69
judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 223 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.
Figure 3: Asylum Seeker Had Representation
If an asylum seeker is not represented by an
attorney, almost all (91%) of them are denied asylum. In contrast, a
significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful.
In the case of Judge Couch, 19.1% were not
represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole,
about 20.2% 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.
Figure 4: Asylum Decisions by Nationality
For Judge Couch, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came
from Honduras. Individuals from this nation made up 22.7 % of his caseload.
Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Couch were:
El Salvador (18.4 %), Guatemala (12.8%), Mexico (12.6%), Egypt (4.8%).
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 (23.4%), El Salvador (11.7%), Mexico (11.0%), Honduras (8.3%), Guatemala (8.2%), India (2.9%), Nepal (2.0%), Haiti (2.0%), Ethiopia (1.7%), Somalia (1.4%), Eritrea (1.4%), Egypt (1.2%), Cameroon (1.0%).