July 01, 2017

In Borrowed Robes: A Day in the Life of an Immigration Judge

By Judge Dorothy A. Harbeck

It was a Sunday afternoon of particular autumn splendor when I found myself trying on vampire capes for work. I had been three-quarters of the way to the York County Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania, a detention center, for my week-long detail of hearing removal cases of noncitizens when I realized I had forgotten my judicial robe. I was supposed to be on the bench in the immigration court the next morning. I was a new immigration judge (IJ), assigned to a detention facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and I did not want any problems on my detail to York. I figured forgetting my robe was a rookie move, and I wanted to project authority. Also, there is a specific Operating Policy and Procedure Memorandum (OPPM) on the subject.2 That OPPM requires that I wear a robe when presiding over cases so that I convey the proper dignity of the court and foster the aims of due process and a fair hearing.

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