Published Oct 26, 2022
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Judge Kolbe to begin hearing cases in January 2016. Judge Kolbe received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1987 from the University of Cincinnati, a Master of Arts degree in 1989 from the University of Cincinnati, and a Juris Doctor in 1996 from the Notre Dame Law School. From 2002 through 2015, Judge Kolbe served as assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn, N.Y. From 1996 through 2002, Judge Kolbe served as an attorney advisor for the Board of Immigration Appeals, Executive Office for Immigration Review, U.S. Department of Justice, in Falls Church, Va., and from 1991 through 1993, as a Peace Corps volunteer in Gabon, Africa. Judge Kolbe is a member of the Ohio Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Kolbe were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2017 through 2022. During this period, court records show that Judge Kolbe decided 617 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 451, granted 19 other types of relief, and denied relief to 147. Converted to percentage terms, Kolbe denied 23.8 percent and granted 76.2 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Kolbe's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Kolbe's denial rate of 23.8 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 63.8 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the New York Immigration Court where Judge Kolbe decided these cases denied asylum 34 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Kolbe'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 (83%) are denied asylum. In contrast, a significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful. In the case of Judge Kolbe, 1% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 16.7% 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 Kolbe came from China. Individuals from this country made up 30.0% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Kolbe were: El Salvador (13.3%), India (10.4%), Honduras (7.6%), Guatemala (6.6%). 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 (18.2%), Guatemala (16.0%), Honduras (14.6%), Mexico (10.5%), China (7.5%), India (4.5%), Cuba (2.5%), Venezuela (2.1%), Ecuador (2.1%), Nicaragua (1.9%), Haiti (1.7%), Cameroon (1.5%), Nepal (1.2%).