Published Oct 19, 2023
Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Sebastian T. Patti to begin hearing cases in October2018. Judge Patti earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1975 from Duke University and a Juris Doctor in1978 from the University of Kansas School of Law. From 2011 to 2018, he was presiding judgewith the Domestic Violence Division, Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. From 2010 to2011, he was a judge with the Chancery Division, Circuit Court of Cook County. From 2009 to2010, he was a judge with the Illinois Appellate Court in Chicago. From 1998 to 2009, he was asupervising judge with the Housing Section, Circuit Court of Cook County. From 1995 to 1998,he was a judge with the Circuit Court of Cook County. From 1979 to 1995, he was a regionalcounsel for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Chicago. Judge Patti is a member ofthe Kansas Bar and the Illinois State Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Patti were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Patti decided 197 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 155, granted 1 other types of relief, and denied relief to 41. Converted to percentage terms, Patti denied 20.8 percent and granted 79.2 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Patti's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Patti's denial rate of 20.8 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Chicago Immigration Court where Judge Patti decided these cases denied asylum 46 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Patti'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 Patti, 2.5% 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 Patti came from Honduras. Individuals from this country made up 14.7% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Patti were: Venezuela (10.2%), Moldavia (Moldova) (8.6%), China (7.6%), El Salvador (7.1%). 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%).