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Judge Brian Burke
FY 2018 - 2023, Van Nuys Immigration Court

Published Oct 19, 2023

Attorney General Barr appointed Brian H. Burke to begin hearing cases in January 2020. Judge Burke earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1989 from the University of Pittsburgh and a Juris Doctor in 1992 from the University of Dayton School of Law. From 2017 to 2019, he was the chief judge for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, in California. From 2013 to 2019, he was the chief judge for the Ak-Chin Indian Community, in Maricopa, Arizona. From 2010 to 2013, he was the tribal prosecutor for the Ak-Chin Indian Community, in Maricopa, Arizona. From 2009 to 2010, he was a deputy defense attorney for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, in Scottsdale, Arizona. From 2006 to 2009, he was the managing attorney for Community Legal Services, in Kingman, Arizona. From 2003 to 2006, he was a rights attorney for the Nevada Disability Advocacy and Law Center, in Las Vegas. From 2000 to 2003, he was assistant public defender for the Beaver County Public Defender’s Office, in Beaver, Pennsylvania. From 1999 to 2000, he was a staff attorney for Appalachian Legal Services, in Charleston, West Virginia. From 1992 to 1995, and 1997 to 1998, he served as assistant district attorney for the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office. Judge Burke is a member of the Arizona State Bar and the Pennsylvania State Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

Detailed data on decisions by Judge Burke were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Burke decided 346 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 190, granted 10 other types of relief, and denied relief to 146. Converted to percentage terms, Burke denied 42.2 percent and granted 57.8 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).

Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Burke'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 Burke's denial rate of 42.2 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Van Nuys Immigration Court where Judge Burke decided these cases denied asylum 50.5 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

Judge Burke'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 Burke, 3.8% 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 Burke came from Armenia. Individuals from this country made up 22.3% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Burke were: El Salvador (19.1%), Guatemala (10.4%), India (10.1%), Mexico (7.5%). 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%).

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.