Published Oct 19, 2023
Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Lindsy M. Roberts to begin hearing cases inNovember 2018. Judge Roberts earned a Bachelor of Arts in 2000 from Washington andJefferson College and a Juris Doctor in 2003 from the Washington and Lee University School ofLaw. From 2015 to 2018, she served as an assistant U.S. attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Officefor the District of Nevada, Department of Justice, in Las Vegas. From 2004 to 2015, she was anassociate attorney and principal attorney with Goodman, Allen & Filetti PLLC, in Norfolk,Virginia. Judge Roberts is a member of the Virginia State Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Roberts were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Roberts decided 323 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted asylum for 182, granted 17 other types of relief, and denied relief to 124. Converted to percentage terms, Roberts denied 38.4 percent and granted 61.6 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Roberts's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Roberts's denial rate of 38.4 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Las Vegas Immigration Court where Judge Roberts decided these cases denied asylum 64.8 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Roberts'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 Roberts, 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 Roberts came from Cuba. Individuals from this country made up 29.1% of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Roberts were: El Salvador (18.9%), Mexico (9.6%), Guatemala (8.4%), China (6.5%). 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%).