Judge Dana Leigh Marks
FY 2014 - 2019, San Francisco Immigration Court
Judge Marks was appointed as an Immigration Judge in January 1987. She received an
undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1974, and a Juris Doctorate
from the University of California, Hastings College of Law, in 1977. From 1978 to 1986, she
was an attorney associate/partner for Simmons & Ungar in San Francisco. From 1976 to 1978,
she worked as a law clerk/associate attorney for Stiller and Nervo, also in San Francisco. Judge
Marks has served as a commissioner on the State Bar of California's Board of Legal
Specialization, Immigration and Nationality Law Advisory Commission since 1994. She has
been an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law since 1992, and
taught immigration law at various San Francisco Bay Area law schools for five years before that.
Judge Marks is a member of the California Bar.
Deciding Asylum Cases
Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied
Detailed data on Judge Marks decisions were examined for the period covering
fiscal years 2014 through 2019. During this period, Judge
Marks is recorded as deciding 721 asylum claims on their merits. Of these,
she granted 645, gave no conditional grants, and denied 76.
Converted to percentage terms, Marks denied 10.5 percent and granted (including
conditional grants) 89.5 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Marks's
denial rate fiscal year-by-year over this recent period.
Compared to Judge Marks's denial rate of 10.5 percent, nationally
during this same period, immigration court judges denied 63.1 percent
of asylum claims. In the San Francisco Immigration Court where Judge Marks
was based, judges there denied asylum 30.6 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)
Judge Marks 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 Marks here receives a rank of 445. That is 444
judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 11 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 (89%) of them are denied asylum. In contrast, a
significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful.
In the case of Judge Marks, 5.1% 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.
Figure 4: Asylum Decisions by Nationality
For Judge Marks, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before her came
from Guatemala. Individuals from this nation made up 21.9 % of her caseload.
Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Marks were:
Mexico (16.9 %), El Salvador (16.8%), India (16.4%), Honduras (6.2%).
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%).