Published Oct 19, 2023
Judge Leeds was appointed as an Immigration Judge in March 2006. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1983 from Columbia University, and a Juris Doctorate in 1987 from Washington College of Law, American University. Judge Leeds has served as a state and federal court arbitrator, court mediator, and a contract hearing officer for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Administrative Office of the Federal Courts. In addition, Judge Leeds was selected to participate in the Inn of Court (a two year trial training program). Judge Leeds was a solo practitioner in the law offices of Frederic G. Leeds, PC, Freehold, New Jersey, from September 1998 to March 2006. He also served as trial attorney with the Law Offices of Edward Hoagland as in-house counsel for Harleysville insureds, Somerset, New Jersey, from May 1997 to September 1998, and a trial attorney with the Law Offices of Craig Terkowitz as in-house counsel for Hanover insureds, Piscataway, New Jersey, from July 1996 to April 1997. Judge Leeds was a trial attorney with Public Service Electric and Gas Company, Newark, New Jersey, from June 1989 to March 1996, and an associate in the Law Offices of Leonard Franco from September 1988 to March 1989. He is a member of the New Jersey, District of Columbia, and New York Bars.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Leeds were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Leeds decided 844 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 719, granted 4 other types of relief, and denied relief to 121. Converted to percentage terms, Leeds denied 14.3 percent and granted 85.7 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Leeds's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Leeds's denial rate of 14.3 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the New York Immigration Court where Judge Leeds decided these cases denied asylum 34.4 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Leeds'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.
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 Leeds, 1.9% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 15.7% 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.
The largest group of asylum seekers appearing before Judge Leeds came from China. Individuals from this country made up 43.8% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Leeds were: India (12.0%), Nepal (7.8%), Bangladesh (6.3%), El Salvador (5.5%). See Figure 4.
In the nation as a whole during this same period, major nationalities of asylum seekers, in descending order of frequency, were 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%).