District Court Rejects Challenge to Dismiss Discrimination Claims in Tabaddor Case

May 7, 2015, Los Angeles, CA – In a ruling issued on April 23rd, U.S. District Judge George Wu rejected a motion by the federal government to dismiss Iranian American immigration judge Ashley Tabaddor’s claim against the Department of Justice (DOJ) for employment discrimination based on race or national origin and gave her leave to amend a claim of religious discrimination.  At the same time, the judge dismissed Tabaddor’s claim that her constitutional rights were violated for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.    

The lawsuit brought forward by Judge Tabaddor last August challenges a DOJ order that indefinitely recuses her from hearing cases involving Iranian nationals. The suit arose after Judge Tabaddor attended a roundtable meeting organized by the White House in the summer of 2012, which involved the discussion of federal initiatives relevant to the Iranian American community.

Tabaddor has cited that the recusal 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 DOJ sought the dismissal of the case based on procedural grounds of exhaustion of administrative remedies and jurisdictional issues over the judge’s constitutional claims as precluded under the Civil Service Reform Act.

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.

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