Department of Justice Sued by Judge for Discrimination, Pays $200,000

Recently, the Department of Justice settled in a lawsuit brought against the agency last year by Immigration Judge Ashley Tabaddor.  Of Iranian descent, Judge Tabaddor said her superiors at the DOJ ordered her not to hear any cases that involved Iranian nationals. NPR official transcript

An immigration judge since 2005, Tabaddor was invited to a White House meeting with other Iranian-American community leaders.  According to a released statement, Judge Tabbador’s superiors recommended that if she attended the meeting she should recuse herself from all immigration cases involving Iranians.  Tabaddor claimed that when she returned from Washington the recommended recusal turned into an order.

In particular, the complaint alleged that the DOJ’s blanket recusal order was unlawful and discriminatory under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and violated Judge Tabaddor’s First Amendment rights of free speech and association.  

“The unprecedented blanket recusal order imposed on Judge Tabaddor for her civic engagement with the Iranian American community is discriminatory and unlawful,” said Laboni Hoq, Litigation Director at Advancing Justice.

Tabaddor’s claim additionally stated: “Unless the agency (DOJ) is prevented from having unbridled power to issue recusal orders against immigration judges, based on their race, national origin, religion or perceived interests, the effect is that immigration judges will be improperly manipulated and intimidated by Justice Department officials, and their decisional independence will be severely threatened.”

On Tuesday November 3, Judge Tabaddor’s attorneys announced that the Justice Department had agreed to lift its order, review its recusal policies and pay her $200,000.

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