Judge Jonathan D. Pelletier
FY 2005 - 2010, Atlanta Immigration Court
Jonathan Daniel Pelletier was appointed as an immigration judge in September 2006. He received a bachelor of arts degree in 1974 and a juris doctorate in 1977, both from the University of Georgia. Judge Pelletier also attended the Basic Officer’s Course in 1981 and the Advanced Officer’s Course in 1985 at the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General School, and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in 1989. From March 2003 to October 2006, Judge Pelletier served as the Assistant Chief Counsel for the Department of Homeland Security in Atlanta. From December 1987 to March 2003, he served as an Assistant District Counsel with the former Immigration and Naturalization Service in Atlanta. During this time, from 1990 to 1996, Judge Pelletier served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney. Judge Pelletier also served as a Command Judge Advocate, 93rd Signal Battalion, Fort Gordon, Georgia, from 2002 to 2003. He was a Senior Defense Counsel, U.S. Army Trial Defense Service at Fort Jackson, S.C., from 1990 to 1991. He is a member of the Georgia Bar.
Deciding Asylum Cases
Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied
Detailed data on Judge Pelletier decisions were examined for the period covering
fiscal years 2005 through 2010. During this period, Judge
Pelletier is recorded as deciding 310 asylum claims on their merits. Of these,
he granted 36, gave no conditional grants, and denied 274.
Converted to percentage terms, Pelletier denied 88.4 percent and granted (including
conditional grants) 11.6 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Pelletier's
denial rate fiscal year-by-year over this recent period.
(Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Pelletier's denial rate of 88.4 percent, nationally
during this same period, immigration court judges denied 55.4 percent
of asylum claims. In the Atlanta Immigration Court where Judge Pelletier
was based, judges there denied asylum 85 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)
Judge Pelletier can also be ranked compared to each of the 253 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 253 - where 1 represented the highest denial percent and 253
represented the lowest - Judge Pelletier here receives a rank of 17. That is 16
judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 236 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 (88%) of them are denied asylum. In contrast, a
significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful.
In the case of Judge Pelletier, 30.6% were not
represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole,
about 11% 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 Pelletier, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came
from Colombia. Individuals from this nation made up 14.8 % of his caseload.
Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Pelletier were:
Guatemala (13.9 %), Zimbabwe (8.4%), China (7.4%), Haiti (4.5%).
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 (21.7%), Haiti (9.9%), Colombia (7.1%),
El Salvador (5.1%), Guatemala (4.8%), Indonesia (3.6%), India (2.6%), Venezuela (2.5%), Albania (2.5%),
Ethiopia (1.9%), Honduras (1.8%), Guinea (1.6%), Mexico (1.5%).