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Judge Nancy J. Paul
FY 2018 - 2023, Omaha Immigration Court

Published Oct 19, 2023

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Nancy J. Paul to begin hearing cases in September 2016. Judge Paul earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1985 from the University of Nebraska and a Juris Doctor in 1988 from the Creighton University School of Law. From 2010 to September 2016, she served as a board member and treasurer for the Great Plains Colon Cancer Task Force, in Omaha, Neb. From 2008 through 2010, she served as a military commission judge for the Office of the Military Commissions, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. From 2003 through 2010, she served as a military judge for the U.S. Air Force (USAF), at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., and Travis Air Base, Calif. From 2003 through 2010, she also served as an adjunct instructor for the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s School. From 2000 through 2003, she served as the chief of Operations and International Law, USAF, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. From 1997 through 2000, she served as a deputy and acting staff judge advocate for the USAF at Hurlburt Field, Fla. From 1994 through 1997, she served as the chief of the Adverse Actions Division, USAF, at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. From 1993 through 1994, she served as a deputy staff judge advocate for the USAF, at Plattsburgh Air Force Base, N.Y. From 1992 through 1993, she served as area defense counsel for the USAF, at Offutt Air Force Base. From 1988 through 1992, she served as the chief of Military Justice and General Law at Offutt Air Force Base. Judge Paul is a member of the Nebraska State Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

Detailed data on decisions by Judge Paul were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Paul decided 134 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted asylum for 18, granted 4 other types of relief, and denied relief to 112. Converted to percentage terms, Paul denied 83.6 percent and granted 16.4 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).

Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Paul's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)

Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied

Nationwide Comparisons

Compared to Judge Paul's denial rate of 83.6 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Omaha Immigration Court where Judge Paul decided these cases denied asylum 89.7 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

Judge Paul'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.

Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)

Why Do Denial Rates Vary Among Judges?

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 Paul, 8.2% were not represented by an attorney. See Figure 3. For the nation as a whole, about 15.7% of asylum seekers are not represented.

Figure 3: Asylum Seeker Had Representation


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 Paul came from Guatemala. Individuals from this country made up 47.0% of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Paul were: El Salvador (23.9%), Mexico (14.9%), Honduras (6.7%), Benin (2.2%). 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%).

Figure 4: Asylum Decisions by Nationality
TRAC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit data research center affiliated with the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Whitman School of Management, both at Syracuse University. For more information, to subscribe, or to donate, contact trac@syr.edu or call 315-443-3563.