Published Oct 19, 2023
Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed David C. Whipple to begin hearing cases in April 2017. Judge Whipple earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1991 and a Master of Arts in 1995 from the University of Michigan, and a Juris Doctor in 2007 from the University of Idaho College of Law. From March 2016 to April 2017, he served as a special assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, Department of Justice. From October 2009 through April 2017, he served as an assistant chief counsel for the Office of the Chief Counsel, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, in Eloy and Florence, Ariz. From May 2007 to October 2009, he served as a deputy prosecuting attorney for the Office of the Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney in Idaho. Judge Whipple is a member of the Idaho State Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Whipple were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Whipple decided 227 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 82, granted 8 other types of relief, and denied relief to 137. Converted to percentage terms, Whipple denied 60.4 percent and granted 39.6 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Whipple's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Whipple's denial rate of 60.4 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Cleveland Immigration Court where Judge Whipple decided these cases denied asylum 80.3 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Whipple'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 Whipple, 21.1% 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 Whipple came from Guatemala. Individuals from this country made up 17.2% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Whipple were: El Salvador (11.0%), Honduras (10.1%), Mexico (7.0%), Cuba (6.2%). 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%).