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Judge Paul M. Gagnon
FY 2018 - 2023, Boston Immigration Court

Published Oct 19, 2023

Judge Gagnon was appointed as an Immigration Judge in February 2002. Prior to his appointment to the Boston Immigration Court in April 2003, Judge Gagnon served as an Immigration Judge in the Hartford Immigration Court. He received an undergraduate degree in 1971 from the University of New Hampshire, and a Juris Doctorate in 1977 from Suffolk University School of Law. From June 2001 to February 2002, Judge Gagnon was a research associate with the Institute for Security Technology Studies at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. He served as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Hampshire from December 1993 to May 2001. Judge Gagnon was in private practice from 1987 to 1993 ; served as Hillsborough County Attorney from 1983 to 1986 ; was an associate in the law firm of Malloy and Sullivan from 1980 to 1982; and served assistant Hillsborough County Attorney from 1977 to 1979, all in Manchester, New Hampshire. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1971 to 1974 and the New Hampshire Air National Guard from 1975 to 1992. Judge Gagnon is a member of the New Hampshire Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

Detailed data on decisions by Judge Gagnon were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Gagnon decided 131 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 88, granted 2 other types of relief, and denied relief to 41. Converted to percentage terms, Gagnon denied 31.3 percent and granted 68.7 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).

Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Gagnon's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)

Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Nationwide Comparisons

Compared to Judge Gagnon's denial rate of 31.3 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Boston Immigration Court where Judge Gagnon decided these cases denied asylum 49.1 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

Judge Gagnon's asylum grant and denial rates are compared with other judges serving on the same court in this table. Note that when an Immigration Judge serves on more than one court during the same period, separate Immigration Judge reports are created for any Court in which the judge rendered at least 100 asylum decisions.

Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Why Do Denial Rates Vary Among Judges?

Although denial rates are shaped by each Judge's judicial philosophy, denial rates are also shaped by other factors, such as the types of cases on the Judge's docket, the detained status of immigrant respondents, current immigration policies, and other factors beyond an individual Judge's control. For example, TRAC has previously found that legal representation and the nationality of the asylum seeker are just two factors that appear to impact asylum decision outcomes.

The composition of cases may differ significantly between Immigration Courts in the country. Within a single Court when cases are randomly assigned to judges sitting on that Court, each Judge should have roughly a similar composition of cases given a sufficient number of asylum cases. Then variations in asylum decisions among Judges on the same Immigration Court would appear to reflect, at least in part, the judicial philosophy that the Judge brings to the bench. However, if judges within a Court are assigned to specialized dockets or hearing locations, then case compositions are likely to continue to differ and can contribute to differences in asylum denial rates.


When asylum seekers are not represented by an attorney, almost all of them (80%) are denied asylum. In contrast, a significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful. In the case of Judge Gagnon, 12.2% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 15.7% of asylum seekers are not represented.

Figure 3: Asylum Seeker Had Representation


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.

The largest group of asylum seekers appearing before Judge Gagnon came from El Salvador. Individuals from this country made up 22.9% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Gagnon were: Guatemala (14.5%), Indonesia (9.2%), Syria (5.3%), Honduras (4.6%). See Figure 4.

In the nation as a whole during this same period, major nationalities of asylum seekers, in descending order of frequency, were El Salvador (16.6%), Guatemala (15.1%), Honduras (13.8%), Mexico (9.2%), China (6.8%), India (5.1%), Venezuela (3.2%), Ecuador (3.1%), Cuba (2.4%), Nicaragua (2.3%), Brazil (2.0%), Colombia (1.4%), Cameroon (1.4%).

Figure 4: Asylum Decisions by Nationality
TRAC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit data research center affiliated with the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Whitman School of Management, both at Syracuse University. For more information, to subscribe, or to donate, contact trac@syr.edu or call 315-443-3563.