Published Oct 19, 2023
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Steven D. Caley to begin hearing cases in February 2017. Judge Caley earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1977 from Hanover College and a Juris Doctor in 1980 from the New York University School of Law. From 2012 to January 2017, he served as a senior attorney for GreenLaw, in Atlanta. From 2000 through 2012, he was a partner and senior associate for Weissman, Nowack, Curry & Wilco, in Atlanta. From 2005 through 2006, and previously from 1996 through 1999, he served part-time as a special assistant administrative law judge for the Office of State Administrative Hearings, in Atlanta. From 1998 through 2000, he served as regional director for Legal Aid Services of Oregon, in Portland, Ore. From 1990 through 1998, he served as director of litigation for the Atlanta Legal Aid Society Inc., in Atlanta. From 1980 through 1990, he served in various capacities for the Legal Services Corporation of Alabama, in Dotham, Ala., including as managing attorney, senior staff attorney, and staff attorney. From 2003 through 2007, he served on the faculty of the Georgia State University College of Law as an adjunct professor. Judge Caley is a member of the Alabama State Bar, Florida Bar, State Bar of Georgia, and Oregon State Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Caley were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Caley decided 352 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 96, granted 30 other types of relief, and denied relief to 226. Converted to percentage terms, Caley denied 64.2 percent and granted 35.8 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Caley's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Caley's denial rate of 64.2 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Aurora Immigration Court where Judge Caley decided these cases denied asylum 65 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Caley'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 (80%) are denied asylum. In contrast, a significantly higher proportion of represented asylum seekers are successful. In the case of Judge Caley, 56.8% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 15.7% 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 Caley came from Mexico. Individuals from this country made up 34.7% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Caley were: Cameroon (12.2%), El Salvador (7.7%), Guatemala (6.3%), Honduras (6.3%). 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 (16.6%), Guatemala (15.1%), Honduras (13.8%), Mexico (9.2%), China (6.8%), India (5.1%), Venezuela (3.2%), Ecuador (3.1%), Cuba (2.4%), Nicaragua (2.3%), Brazil (2.0%), Colombia (1.4%), Cameroon (1.4%).