Judge Stephanie E. Gorman

FY 2015 - 2020, Houston Immigration Court

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Stephanie E. Gorman to begin hearing cases in February 2017. Judge Gorman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1996 from California State University Sacramento, a Juris Doctor in 2002 from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and a Master of Laws degree in 2005 from the University of San Diego School of Law. From 2014 to January 2017, she served as an attorney and legal instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga., for the Office of the Chief Counsel, Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security (DHS). From 2008 through 2014, she served as an assistant chief counsel for the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS. From 2009 through 2012, she also served as a special assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida, Department of Justice (DOJ), in Orlando, Fla. From 2007 through 2008, she served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable M. James Lorenz, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, in San Diego. From March 2007 to September 2007, she served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Roger T. Benitez, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, in San Diego. From 2006 through 2007, she served as an assistant state attorney for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit, in Sarasota, Fla. From 2003 through 2006, she served in various capacities on the faculty of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, including as visiting assistant professor of law and senior legal writing instructor and adjunct professor. From 2002 through 2004, she served as an associate attorney for the Law Office of Matthew P. Rocco, in Carlsbad, Ca. Judge Gorman is a member of the State Bar of California and the Florida Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

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Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Detailed data on Judge Gorman decisions were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2015 through 2020. During this period, Judge Gorman is recorded as deciding 548 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted 44, gave no conditional grants, and denied 504. Converted to percentage terms, Gorman denied 92 percent and granted (including conditional grants) 8 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Gorman'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 Gorman's denial rate of 92 percent, nationally during this same period, immigration court judges denied 66.7 percent of asylum claims. In the Houston Immigration Court where Judge Gorman was based, judges there denied asylum 92.6 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

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Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Judge Gorman 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 Gorman here receives a rank of 88. That is 87 judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 438 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 Gorman, 26.1% 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 Gorman, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before her came from El Salvador. Individuals from this nation made up 41.4 % of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Gorman were: Honduras (33.8 %), Guatemala (7.5%), Mexico (6.6%), Syria (1.5%). 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 (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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