January 15, 2019 practice points

“Death Penalty Cases in a Traffic Court Setting”: Lessons from the Front Lines of Today’s Immigration Courts

Fit the cross to the witness; the witness to the cross

By Hon. Mark A. Drummond

“In essence, we’re doing death penalty cases in a traffic court setting,” said immigration court Judge Dana Leigh Marks during the April 1, 2018, edition of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. She spoke to John Oliver about immigration courts; she now speaks to Litigation News readers, in her capacity as president emeritus of the National Association of Immigration Judges, about persuasion when time is limited.

At a recent ABA/National Institute for Trial Advocacy pro bono training for legal services attorneys, for which I was program director, a participant asked for tips on how to pack in as much persuasion as possible when time is limited, noting that sometimes lawyers have as little as 15 minutes at master calendar hearings or interviews with an asylum officer. Another participant brought up Judge Marks’s compelling analogy. So, on behalf of Litigation News, I decided to ask Judge Marks for her best practices. Although she was asked for her best practices on cases where a person’s destiny hangs in the balance, her advice is universal. Judge Marks’s suggestions will be directly quoted, with my two cents directly following.

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