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Judge Steven M. Kirchner
FY 2018 - 2023, San Francisco Immigration Court

Published Oct 19, 2023

Steven M. Kirchner was appointed as an Immigration Judge to begin hearing cases in October2021. Judge Kirchner earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1999 from Wheeling Jesuit University, a JurisDoctor in 2002 from Capital University Law School, and a Master of Arts in 2013 from TheGeorge Washington University. From 2020 to 2021, he served as a Senior Attorney Adjudicator,National Adjudication Team, Office of Hearings Operations (OHO), Social SecurityAdministration (SSA), in Falls Church, Virginia. From 2019 to 2021, he also served as a HearingExaminer, Ohio Board of Nursing, in Columbus, Ohio. From 2013 to 2020, he served as anAttorney Advisor to the Philadelphia Regional Chief Administrative Law Judge, OHO, SSA, inPhiladelphia. From 2012 to 2013, he served as a Supervisory Attorney Advisor, OHO, SSA, inPittsburgh. From 2010 to 2012, he served as an Attorney Advisor, OHO, SSA, in Cleveland.From 2006 to 2010, he served as a District Hearing Officer, Industrial Commission of Ohio, inAkron, Canton, and Cincinnati, Ohio. From 2004 to 2006, he served as a Hearing Administrator,Industrial Commission of Ohio, in Cincinnati. From 2002 to 2004, he was an Associate Attorneywith Agee, Clymer, Mitchell, and Portman in Columbus, Ohio. Judge Kirchner is a member ofthe Ohio State Bar.

Deciding Asylum Cases

Detailed data on decisions by Judge Kirchner were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Kirchner decided 593 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, he granted asylum for 421, granted 1 other types of relief, and denied relief to 171. Converted to percentage terms, Kirchner denied 28.8 percent and granted 71.2 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).

Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Kirchner'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 Kirchner's denial rate of 28.8 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the San Francisco Immigration Court where Judge Kirchner decided these cases denied asylum 29.2 percent of the time. See Figure 2.

Judge Kirchner'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 Kirchner, 10.8% 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 Kirchner came from Guatemala. Individuals from this country made up 24.3% of his caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Kirchner were: El Salvador (15.5%), India (13.5%), Colombia (12.5%), Honduras (10.5%). 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.