U.S Department of Justice
Executive Office for Immigration Review
Office of the Chief Immigration Judge
5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 2500
Falls Church, Virginia
March 15, 2004
Dear Ms. Schloerb,
Your letter dated January 16, 2004, received in the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge (OCIJ) on February 2, 2004, was assigned to me for response. In your letter you complained about the way Immigration Judge William Strasser of the Newark, New Jersey Immigration Court, conducted hearings involving Jose Barrios Castilla. You stated that you found Judge Strasser's comments and actions to be unprofessional, disturbing, and offensive. You stated that you attended four hearings that occurred on September 30, October 9, November 14, and December 5, 2003. You also stated complaints about the questions the judge asked of you and your daughters, the questions the Judge asked of other witnesses, the limits the judge placed on certain testimony, and statements the judge made while taking testimony and during his oral decision.
As a result of your complaint I listened to the more than fifteen hours of audio recorded for the hearings presided over by Judge Strasser for the dates of September 30, October 7, November 14, and December 5, 2003. There was no record of hearings on October 9, 2003, in the Barrios Castilla case.
I found the judge's conduct in the hearings to be completely professional. I found his questioning of you and your daughters to be not only professional but extremely patient, courteous and solicitous. During his questioning of your daughters he was particularly attentive, considerate and concerned for their well-being. He appeared to have a great deal of awareness of the stress they were under in having to give what I am sure to them was very disturbing testimony about the incidents they had experienced. He obviously paid very close attention to not only what they said but how the testimony affected them. He offered recesses whenever a witness appeared too distraught to go on. The judge consistently spoke in a low, mild tone of voice and took every opportunity available to explain to you and your daughters what he needed to hear from you and your daughters, why he needed to hear it, and what he had to do with the information you gave.
I disagree with your characterization of the judge's conduct as unprofessional, disturbing, and offensive. To the contrary I found his conduct throughout the entire record for the four hearings in question to have been very professional, appropriate, and caring.
I am very sorry that you and your daughters had to bring back very bad memories from a time in your lives that I'm sure all three of you would rather have never experienced. Unfortunately, that became necessary when you became witnesses in the case. Because you were witnesses, you were necessarily excluded from most of the hearings except when you were on the witness stand. Having now reviewed all of the record for the four days of hearings, I believe the judge was sympathetic to the plight of you and your daughters. He tried to make the experience of testifying as stress free as possible, and yet gather all the information needed to reach an informed decision.
I appreciate your interest in this case and in the immigration process in general. If you are not satisfied with this response you may forward your concerns to the Office of Professional Responsibility, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC 20530.
Assistant Chief Immigration Judge