Published Oct 19, 2023
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Randall Wilson Duncan to begin hearing cases in October 2016. Judge Duncan earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1977 and a Master of Public Administration in 1985, both from the University of Georgia, and a Juris Doctor in 1995 from the John Marshall Law School. From 2007 to October 2016, he served in various capacities for the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, including as a senior attorney, national security attorney, worksite enforcement attorney, special assistant U.S. attorney, and assistant chief counsel, in Atlanta. From 2003 through 2007, he served as a deputy director for the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia, in Atlanta. From 2002 through 2003, he served as legal director for the Georgia Sentencing Commission, in Atlanta. From 2000 through 2002, he served as an assistant district attorney for the Coweta Judicial Circuit, in Newnan, Ga. From 1997 through 1999, he served as a public policy attorney for Applied Research Services, in Atlanta. Judge Duncan is a member of the State Bar of Georgia.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Duncan were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Duncan decided 281 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 24, granted 3 other types of relief, and denied relief to 254. Converted to percentage terms, Duncan denied 90.4 percent and granted 9.6 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Duncan's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Duncan's denial rate of 90.4 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Lumpkin Immigration Court where Judge Duncan decided these cases denied asylum 86.4 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Duncan'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 Duncan, 39.9% 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 Duncan came from Honduras. Individuals from this country made up 14.9% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Duncan were: Cuba (8.9%), Nicaragua (8.5%), El Salvador (7.8%), India (7.5%). 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%).