Judge Steven J. Connelly

FY 2015 - 2020, Batavia Immigration Court

Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Judge Connelly in October 2010. Judge Connelly received a bachelor of arts degree in 1983 and a juris doctorate in 1986, both from the State University of New York at Buffalo. From 2003 to October 2010, he worked as an assistant chief counsel, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Buffalo, N.Y. From 1994 to 2003, Judge Connelly was a trial attorney and an assistant district counsel for the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, Buffalo. During that time, from 2000 to 2003, he was designated as a civil special assistant U.S. attorney for the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of New York. From 1992 to 1994, Judge Connelly worked as an attorney for the International Institute of Buffalo, representing individuals in immigration court proceedings. From 1989 to 1992, he was an attorney in Buffalo for Serotte, Reich and Seipp, which specialized in the practice of U.S. immigration law. Judge Connelly is a member of the New York State Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Connelly decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2015 through 2020. During this period, Judge Connelly is recorded as deciding 192 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted 40, gave no conditional grants, and denied 152. Converted to percentage terms, Connelly denied 79.2 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 20.8 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Connelly'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 Connelly's denial rate of 79.2 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 66.7 percent of asylum claims. In the Batavia Immigration Court where Judge Connelly was based, judges there denied asylum 84.1 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Connelly can also be ranked compared to each of the 526 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 526 - where 1 represented the highest denial percent and 526 represented the lowest - Judge Connelly here receives a rank of 245. That is 244 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 281 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 (88%) of them are denied asylum. In contrast, a significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful. In the case of Judge Connelly, 47.4% 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 Connelly, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came from Eritrea. Individuals from this nation made up 12.5 % of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Connelly were: Somalia (12.5 %), El Salvador (10.4%), Honduras (9.9%), Mexico (7.8%). 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 (18.1%), Guatemala (15.1%), Honduras (14.7%), Mexico (11.8%), China (10.2%), India (3.7%), Cuba (2.5%), Haiti (1.8%), Cameroon (1.5%), Venezuela (1.3%), Nepal (1.3%), Nicaragua (1.1%), Bangladesh (1.0%).

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