Home > Immigration > Tools > Judge Reports

Judge John M. Gillies
FY 2018 - 2023, Atlanta Immigration Court

Published Oct 19, 2023

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed John M. Gillies to begin hearing cases in February2018. Judge Gillies earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1984 and a Juris Doctor in 1991, bothfrom the University of Florida. From 2009 to 2018, he worked for the Office of InternationalAffairs (OIA), Criminal Division (CRM), Department of Justice (DOJ), serving originally as adetailee from the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force as a trial attorney, 2009 to2013, and as acting associate director, 2013 to 2014; and then as OIA associate director, 2014 to2018, in Washington, D.C. From 2008 to 2009, he served as a trial attorney for the Narcotic andDangerous Drug Section (NDDS), CRM, DOJ, in Washington, D.C. From 2006 to 2008, heworked for the Office of the Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, DOJ, serving ascounsel to the assistant attorney general from 2006 to 2007, and chief of staff from 2007 to 2008.From 2005 to 2006, he worked at NDDS, CRM, DOJ, serving as a trial attorney from 2005 to2006, and assistant deputy chief for litigation in 2006, in Washington, D.C. From 2003 to 2005,he served as chief legal counsel for the Office of the Honorable Saxby Chambliss, U.S. Senate,also in Washington, D.C. From 2001 to 2003, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S.Attorney’s Office, District of Nevada, in Las Vegas. From 1998 to 2001, he served as anassistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Georgia, in Albany, Ga.From 1997 to 1998, he was an associate at Melton H. Little P.A., in Bradenton, Fla. From 1995to 1997, he served as an assistant state attorney for the Office of the State Attorney, FloridaTwelfth Judicial Circuit, in Arcadia, Sarasota, and Venice, Fla. From 1992 to 1995, he was anassociate at Holland & Knight LLP, in Fort Lauderdale and Tallahassee, Fla. From 1991 to 1992,he served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Gerald Bard Tjoflat, U.S. Court of Appealsfor the Eleventh Circuit, in Jacksonville, Fla. Judge Gillies is a member of the Florida andGeorgia State Bars.

Deciding Asylum Cases

Detailed data on decisions by Judge Gillies were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Gillies decided 295 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 6, granted 1 other types of relief, and denied relief to 288. Converted to percentage terms, Gillies denied 97.6 percent and granted 2.3 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).

Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Gillies'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 Gillies's denial rate of 97.6 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Atlanta Immigration Court where Judge Gillies decided these cases denied asylum 89.5 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

Judge Gillies'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 Gillies, 14.2% 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 Gillies came from Guatemala. Individuals from this country made up 24.7% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Gillies were: Honduras (24.4%), Mexico (22.7%), El Salvador (20.7%), Haiti (1.4%). 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.