Judge Noel A. Brennan

FY 2013 - 2018, New York Immigration Court

Judge Brennan was appointed as an Immigration Judge in August 2003. Prior to this appointment, she served on the Board of Immigration Appeals in Falls Church, Virginia, since July 2000. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marywood College in 1969, a Master of Arts degree from George Washington University in 1972, and a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center in 1985 where she has been an adjunct professor of law since 1991. Prior to her appointment, since June 1994, Judge Brennan served in the Department of Justice as the deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Justice Programs where she was the chief architect of former Attorney General Janet Reno's community justice agenda. From 1987 to 1994, she worked as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. She served as a law clerk in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia from 1986 to 1987, and on the Superior Court for the District of Columbia from 1985 to 1986. Judge Brennan was a principal in setting up the DC Mediation Service, the first mediation service in the District of Columbia. Throughout her career, she has been active in pro bono and legal services efforts in the DC community. Judge Brennan is a member of the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, and New York Bars and currently serves on the Board of Governors for the DC Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Brennan decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2013 through 2018. During this period, Judge Brennan is recorded as deciding 2095 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted 1957, gave no conditional grants, and denied 138. Converted to percentage terms, Brennan denied 6.6 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 93.4 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Brennan's denial rate fiscal year-by-year over this recent period.

Nationwide Comparisons

Compared to Judge Brennan's denial rate of 6.6 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 57.6 percent of asylum claims. In the New York Immigration Court where Judge Brennan was based, judges there denied asylum 20.4 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Brennan can also be ranked compared to each of the 347 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 347 - where 1 represented the highest denial percent and 347 represented the lowest - Judge Brennan here receives a rank of 343. That is 342 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 4 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 (91%) of them are denied asylum. In contrast, a significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful. In the case of Judge Brennan, 1.1% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 20% 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 Brennan, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before her came from China. Individuals from this nation made up 56.6 % of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Brennan were: India (6.1 %), Nepal (4.8%), El Salvador (4%), Bangladesh (2.9%). 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 (18.5%), El Salvador (14.7%), Mexico (12.0%), Honduras (10.9%), Guatemala (10.3%), India (3.2%), Haiti (2.1%), Nepal (1.8%), Eritrea (1.3%), Ethiopia (1.3%), Somalia (1.2%), Cameroon (1.0%), Bangladesh (1.0%).

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