Judge Leonard I. Shapiro

FY 2014 - 2019, Boston Immigration Court

Judge Shapiro was appointed as an Immigration Judge in December 1990. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Massachusetts in 1957, and a Juris Doctorate in 1961 from Boston University School of Law. From 1972 to 1990, he was a senior partner with Shapiro & Glassman in Boston. From 1961 to 1972, he was an attorney with the Law Offices of Robert G. Wolf, also in Boston. Judge Shapiro served in the U.S. Army from 1957 to 1958. He was chapter president of the New England Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association from 1986 to 1988, and coauthor of the 1988 Edition of The American Immigration Lawyers Association Textbook, and the 1995 Edition of The Immigration Judge Benchbook. Judge Shapiro was also the chairman of the Immigration Law Section of the Massachusetts Bar Association in 1990 prior to his appointment, and continues to be a member of that association. Judge Shapiro is a member of the Massachusetts Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Shapiro decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2014 through 2019. During this period, Judge Shapiro is recorded as deciding 112 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted 83, gave no conditional grants, and denied 29. Converted to percentage terms, Shapiro denied 25.9 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 74.1 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Shapiro'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 Shapiro's denial rate of 25.9 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 63.1 percent of asylum claims. In the Boston Immigration Court where Judge Shapiro was based, judges there denied asylum 43.9 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Shapiro can also be ranked compared to each of the 456 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 456 - where 1 represented the highest denial percent and 456 represented the lowest - Judge Shapiro here receives a rank of 406. That is 405 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 50 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 Shapiro, 9.8% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 19% 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 Shapiro, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came from Guatemala. Individuals from this nation made up 10.7 % of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Shapiro were: China (8.9 %), El Salvador (7.1%), Congo (5.4%), Iran (5.4%). 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 (17.3%), China (13.5%), Honduras (13.3%), Guatemala (13.0%), Mexico (12.1%), India (3.8%), Haiti (2.1%), Nepal (1.6%), Cuba (1.2%), Eritrea (1.1%), Cameroon (1.1%), Bangladesh (1.0%), Ecuador (0.9%).

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