Published Oct 19, 2023
Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Daniel P. Kinnicutt to begin hearing cases inNovember 2018. Judge Kinnicutt earned a Bachelor of Science in 1989 from PepperdineUniversity and a Juris Doctor in 1994 from Seattle University School of Law. From 2005 to2018, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the WesternDistrict of Kentucky, Department of Justice (DOJ), in Louisville, Kentucky. From 2003 to 2005,he served as an assistant U.S. attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District ofTexas, DOJ, in Del Rio, Texas. In 2003, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney with the U.S.Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, DOJ, in Tucson, Arizona. From 1999 to 2003, heserved as an assistant U.S. attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District ofTexas, DOJ, in Del Rio. From 1994 to 1999, he served as deputy prosecuting attorney for thePierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, in Tacoma, Washington. Judge Kinnicutt is amember of the Washington State Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Kinnicutt were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Kinnicutt decided 100 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 6, granted 1 other types of relief, and denied relief to 93. Converted to percentage terms, Kinnicutt denied 93.0 percent and granted 7.0 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Kinnicutt's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Kinnicutt's denial rate of 93.0 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Memphis Immigration Court where Judge Kinnicutt decided these cases denied asylum 83.7 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Kinnicutt'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 Kinnicutt, 4% 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 Kinnicutt came from Guatemala. Individuals from this country made up 40.0% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Kinnicutt were: Honduras (31.0%), Mexico (14.0%), El Salvador (8.0%), India (5.0%). 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%).