Published Oct 19, 2023
Romy L. Lerner was appointed as an Immigration Judge to begin hearing cases in May 2022. Judge Lerner earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1999 from Columbia University and a Juris Doctorate in 2002 from Columbia University School of Law. From 2015 to 2022, she was the Associate Director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law, and from 2013 to 2015, she was a supervising attorney with the clinic. From 2010 to 2013, she was a supervising attorney at Americans for Immigrant Justice (formerly Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC)). From 2007 to 2010, and previously from 2005 to 2006, she was a staff attorney at FIAC. From 2006 to 2007, she was a Fulbright Fellow in Buenos Aires, Argentina. From 2002 to 2005, she was a litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Judge Lerner is a member of the Florida Bar and New York State Bar.
Detailed data on decisions by Judge Lerner were examined for the period covering fiscal years 2018 through 2023. During this period, court records show that Judge Lerner decided 185 asylum claims on their merits. Of these, she granted asylum for 44, granted 0 other types of relief, and denied relief to 141. Converted to percentage terms, Lerner denied 76.2 percent and granted 23.8 percent of asylum cases (including forms of relief other than asylum).
Figure 1 provides a comparison of Judge Lerner's denial rate each fiscal year over this recent period. (Rates for years with less than 25 decisions are not shown.)
Compared to Judge Lerner's denial rate of 76.2 percent, Immigration Court judges across the country denied 60.6 percent of asylum claims during this same period. Judges at the Miami Immigration Court where Judge Lerner decided these cases denied asylum 85.3 percent of the time. See Figure 2.
Judge Lerner'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 Lerner, 18.4% 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 Lerner came from Brazil. Individuals from this country made up 49.7% of her caseload. Other nationalities in descending order of frequency appearing before Judge Lerner were: Haiti (17.8%), Colombia (9.2%), Honduras (8.1%), Chile (4.9%). 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%).