November 4, 2015, Washington, D.C. – The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans today welcomes the resolution of a suit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of sitting Immigration Judge Afsaneh Ashley Tabaddor. The federal lawsuit challenged the DOJ’s order requiring Tabaddor to recuse herself from all cases involving Iranian nationals (Case No.14-cv-06390, Tabaddor v. Holder et al.).
The lawsuit alleged that the DOJ’s blanket recusal order was unlawful and racially discriminatory based on Judge Tabaddor’s heritage and her involvement with the Iranian American community, including speaking, educational, and volunteer activities.
Under the terms of the settlement, the DOJ will lift the recusal order against Tabaddor, undertake to review its policies, and pay $200,000. “In our view, this resolution completely vindicates the time honored principles which our client had sworn to uphold,” said Cooley Partner Ali Mojdehi. “We also thank the numerous organizations and individuals who have rejected silence and have voiced their support in pleadings or otherwise in favor of our client. Finally, we are also pleased the DOJ came to terms on this matter.”
The suit arose after Judge Tabaddor attended a roundtable meeting organized by the White House in August 2012, which involved the discussion of federal initiatives relevant to the Iranian American community. Judge Tabaddor was told by the DOJ that there would be no consequences for attending the roundtable meeting as long as she was not appearing in her official capacity, but after the meeting Judge Tabaddor was first “recommended” and then “ordered” by the DOJ to recuse herself from cases involving Iranian nationals given her activities with the Iranian American community.
In October of 2014, PAAIA, along with several other organizations, 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 welcomes the resolution and congratulates Judge Tabaddor on her hard fought victory. PAAIA is firmly committed to ensuring fair treatment under the law for Iranian Americans, and combating all instances of discrimination against them on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, or religion. We believe this settlement is significant for all ethnic minorities who are faced with unjust discrimination.
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.