Judge Richard Zanfardino
FY 2015 - 2020, Tacoma Immigration Court
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch appointed Richard Zanfardino to begin hearing cases in September 2016. Judge Zanfardino earned both a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1989 and a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1990 from North Carolina State University, and a Juris Doctor in 1996 from the Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America. From 2006 to September 2016, he served as a trial attorney for the Office of Immigration Litigation, Department of Justice (DOJ). From 1997 through 2006, he served as an attorney advisor for the Board of Immigration Appeals, Executive Office for Immigration Review, DOJ. From 2003 through 2004, he served as a special assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, DOJ, in Washington, D.C. Judge Zanfardino is a member of the District of Columbia Bar.
Deciding Asylum Cases
Figure 1: Percent of Asylum Matters Denied
Detailed data on Judge Zanfardino decisions were examined for the period covering
fiscal years 2015 through 2020. During this period, Judge
Zanfardino is recorded as deciding 216 asylum claims on their merits. Of these,
he granted 35, gave no conditional grants, and denied 181.
Converted to percentage terms, Zanfardino denied 83.8 percent and granted (including
conditional grants) 16.2 percent. Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Zanfardino's
denial rate fiscal year-by-year over this recent period.
(Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Zanfardino's denial rate of 83.8 percent, nationally
during this same period, immigration court judges denied 66.7 percent
of asylum claims. In the Tacoma Immigration Court where Judge Zanfardino
was based, judges there denied asylum 70.7 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Figure 2: Comparing Denial Rates (percents)
Judge Zanfardino 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 Zanfardino here receives a rank of 193. That is 192
judges denied asylum at higher rates, and 333 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.
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 Zanfardino, 54.6% 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.
Figure 4: Asylum Decisions by Nationality
For Judge Zanfardino, the largest group of asylum seekers appearing before him came
from Mexico. Individuals from this nation made up 37 % of his caseload.
Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Zanfardino were:
Haiti (14.4 %), Guatemala (8.3%), El Salvador (6.5%), Honduras (6%).
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%).