February 27, 2015, Washington D.C. – Asian Americans Advancing for Justice along with the Iranian American Bar Association and eleven other bar associations filed a friend of the court brief (amicus curiae) today in support of Iranian American Judge Afsaneh Ashley Tabaddor’s federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
The brief opposes the DOJ’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought forward by Judge Tabaddor. It comes just days after the Attorneys for National Association of Immigration Judges submitted a similar amicus brief also opposing the motion to dismiss the case. On April 23, 2015, the presiding judge over the case will decide whether the lawsuit will move forward or be dismissed in response to the motion filed by the DOJ.
The suit brought forward by Judge Tabaddor – an immigration judge for the U.S. Immigration Court – challenges a DOJ order that indefinitely recuses her from hearing cases involving Iranian nationals. Tabaddor has cited that the order violates her First Amendment rights of free speech and association in addition to being racially discriminatory under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It charges that the DOJ based its disqualification order on racially-motivated and discriminatory criteria, specifically Judge Tabaddor’s Iranian heritage and her leadership role within the Iranian American community.
The suit arose after Judge Tabaddor attended a roundtable meeting organized by the White House on August 2012, which involved the discussion of federal initiatives relevant to the Iranian American community. Prior to attending the meeting, Judge Tabaddor was informed by the DOJ that she could attend the roundtable meeting as long as she was not appearing in her official capacity. There was no mention of any consequences for attending the meeting. After the meeting, the DOJ “recommended” that Judge Tabaddor recuse herself from cases involving Iranian nationals given her activities with the Iranian American community. Judge Tabaddor sought clarification, and the DOJ changed the recommendation into an order.
“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 – LA in a press release. “As an organization that exposes and fights against racially motivated discrimination and profiling in all its forms, we strongly support Judge Tabaddor’s lawsuit and are extremely concerned with the long-term consequences if the order is allowed to stand.”
In October of 2014, PAAIA along with 30 Years After, the Arab American Institute, the Armenian National Committee of America, and the PARS Equality Center sent a letter to the Obama Administration challenging the assertion that an immigration judge cannot fairly administer the law because of his or her racial or ethnic heritage, or association with a particular race, national origin or religion. It also raised concern that if the order is allowed to stand, judges of all backgrounds (African American, German American, Jewish American, Mexican American, etc.) can be recused from hearing cases involving members of their own community.
PAAIA is dedicated to protecting the rights and advancing the interests of Iranian Americans in the United States. We will continue to monitor the status of this lawsuit and report on its developments.
Click here to access information, documents, and resources about the case.
A member of the California bar, Judge Tabaddor is an immigration judge for the U.S. Immigration Court, where she serves as a judge in one of the most active courts in the nation. In addition, Judge Tabaddor serves as an adjunct professor with UCLA Law School and has served as an adjunct professor at USC, Chapman, and George Washington Law Schools. Prior to her appointment for the judgeship in 2005, she served for three years as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California in Los Angeles. Judge Tabaddor is an active member of the Iranian American community, having previously served on the Board of Advisors for the Iranian American Bar Association and as a mentor for the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans.