Judge Joseph La Rocca

FY 2013 - 2018, New Orleans Immigration Court

Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Judge La Rocca to begin hearing cases in June 2015.Judge La Rocca received a bachelor of arts degree in 1998 and a juris doctorate in 2001, bothfrom Louisiana State University. From July 2006 to May 2015, Judge La Rocca served at theU.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, in variouscapacities including senior attorney and assistant chief counsel, in New Orleans. From 2002 to2006, he was an attorney at David Ware & Associates, in Metairie, La. From 2001 to 2002,Judge La Rocca was an attorney at the Holliday Law Firm, in Baton Rouge, La. Judge La Roccais a member of the Louisiana State Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Larocca decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2013 through 2018. During this period, Judge Larocca is recorded as deciding 436 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted 93, gave no conditional grants, and denied 343. Converted to percentage terms, Larocca denied 78.7 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 21.3 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Larocca'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 Larocca's denial rate of 78.7 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 57.6 percent of asylum claims. In the New Orleans Immigration Court where Judge Larocca was based, judges there denied asylum 79.9 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Larocca 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 Larocca here receives a rank of 142. That is 141 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 205 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 Larocca, 8.5% 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 Larocca, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came from Honduras. Individuals from this nation made up 45 % of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Larocca were: Guatemala (16.1 %), El Salvador (10.8%), China (6.7%), India (6.4%). 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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