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Lawsuit Challenges Power of Immigration Judges to Hear Cases Due to Unlawful Designation of their Delegating Authority: Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker

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On December 4, 2018, Mr. Carlos Rojo-Ramirez, of Colorado, through his attorneys David. L. Kolko and Jennifer Casey (Kolko & Associates, P.C.), challenged President Trump’s unlawful designation of Matthew G. Whitaker as Acting Attorney General of the United States.

In Rojo-Ramirez v. Trump, et. al., (18-cv-03125), filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, Mr. Rojo-Ramirez asserted that U.S. Immigration Judges are temporarily operating without any legal authority because their power over individuals in immigration removal proceedings is based solely on a delegation of authority from a (lawfully appointed) Attorney General of the United States.

On November 7, 2018, President Trump announced via Twitter that he designated Matthew Whitaker to serve as the Acting Attorney General of the United States. The designation was made without Senate confirmation as required by the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and was executed in violation of the Attorney General Succession Act and Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

This follows other legal actions brought by the State of Maryland and Senators Blumenthal, Whitehouse and Hirono, as well as an amicus brief in Matter of Negusie, 27 I&N Dec. 481 (A.G.) by the American Immigration Council, each of which challenge the unconstitutional appointment of the Acting Attorney General and the resulting legal implications from the unlawful designation.

The Immigration Judges serving at the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) are not independent administrative judges, and operate solely by statute and regulation as delegates of the Attorney General. Plaintiff’s counsel asserts that because Whitaker has not been constitutionally appointed, he does not hold any power to delegate the authority of the office of the Attorney General to the Immigration Judges serving at the EOIR. As a result, these Immigration Judges do not presently have legal authority to preside over the cases before them.

Due to the unique legal structure of the EOIR, with Immigration Judges acting as delegates of a (lawfully appointed) Attorney General, this case calls in to question the legal authority of any actions by the EOIR’s Immigration Judges after November 7, 2018. Nationwide, there are over one million cases pending before approximately 400 Immigration Judges serving in 62 Immigration Courts.

The Plaintiff’s legal challenge includes a request for declaratory judgment and injunction until such time as a lawfully appointed Attorney General is serving in this role, and is able to lawfully delegate the authority of that office to the Immigration Judges of the United States.

For more information, please contact David Kolko or Jennifer Casey at Kolko & Associates, P.C.

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Kolko & Associates is a full service immigration and naturalization law firm providing professional legal services to individuals and businesses throughout Colorado, the Rocky Mountain West, the United States, and the World. Our professional staff speaks English, Spanish, Korean, and Portuguese and we can arrange for translators in any other language.