Judge Barry J. Pettinato

FY 2013 - 2018, Charlotte Immigration Court

Judge Pettinato was appointed as an immigration judge in November 2009. He received a bachelor of science degree in 1978 from Fitchburg State College and a juris doctorate in 1991from Suffolk University Law School. From 2001 to November 2009, Judge Pettinato served in the Office of Immigration Litigation at the Department of Justice as a trial attorney, senior litigation counsel and assistant director. From 1991 to 2001, he worked as an assistant district counsel and trial attorney for the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in San Francisco. Judge Pettinato is a member of the Bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Pettinato decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2013 through 2018. During this period, Judge Pettinato is recorded as deciding 802 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted 88, gave no conditional grants, and denied 714. Converted to percentage terms, Pettinato denied 89 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 11 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Pettinato's denial rate fiscal year-by-year over this recent period.

Nationwide Comparisons

Compared to Judge Pettinato's denial rate of 89 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 57.6 percent of asylum claims. In the Charlotte Immigration Court where Judge Pettinato was based, judges there denied asylum 88.2 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Pettinato 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 Pettinato here receives a rank of 74. That is 73 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 273 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 Pettinato, 26.6% 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 Pettinato, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came from Honduras. Individuals from this nation made up 29.2 % of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Pettinato were: El Salvador (20.7 %), Mexico (16.8%), Guatemala (15.3%), China (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 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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