Welcome to the Benchbook

Introduction to the Interactive Benchbook for Immigration Judges

A. Mission of the Interactive Benchbook

The goal of the immigration judge in every proceeding is to issue a clear, concise and well-reasoned decision at the conclusion of the proceedings. The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) was directed in 2006 to develop templates and resource materials to assist the nation’s Immigration Judges in attaining this goal. This interactive book merges solid legal reasoning and authority with available technology to meet that directive. From its debut at the 2007 Annual Immigration Judge Conference, the Benchbook has been reorganized and redesigned to increase utility. It is emphasized that the reference to templates represent only suggested approaches for dealing with certain cases that may present themselves before you. Prior to rendering decisions, Judges should first check the applicable law and requirements of their circuit.

B. Contents of the Interactive Benchbook

The homepage of the interactive Benchbook includes five buttons or links and at times will have a sixth button that contains time sensitive information:

1. Welcome to the Benchbook
2. Tools for the IJ
3. Legal Resources
4. Alerts
5. Templates
6. Benchbook Updates

The “Welcome to the Benchbook” link contains an interactive film with an explanation of the history of the IJ Benchbook, how it has been revised as well as how to use it.

The “Tools for the IJ” link contains scripts, introductory guides, checklists, worksheets and forms as well as sample IJ orders.

The “Legal Resources” link contains a complete variety of legal resources from the BIA, circuit specific authorities, an aggravated felony case summary outline and an asylum credibility outline by circuit. This link will be updated continually to provide additional resources as they become available.

The “Templates” link includes an interactive template that can be used by a judge in building their clear, concise and well-reasoned decision. The generic template includes links to law specific templates that address a particular area of substantive law, textual links to well-established and commonly accepted principles of immigration law referred to as “standard language,” and links to a variety of legal resources to assist one in crafting their decision.

The “Alerts” link contains information on new OPPMs, updates on widely used immigration materials as well as legal, regulatory and policy changes that affect IJs.

The “Benchbook Updates” link when utilized will advise judges of when the interactive benchbook has been updated. This link will not appear at all times. Once and update has been posted, it will become a permanent part of the benchbook Judges are advised to check the benchbook often to see what has been updated since their last visit.

C. Using the Benchbook

The interactive Benchbook is not designed to influence how a Judge decides a case or even to suggest a particular path to follow in resolving a case. All findings of fact and conclusions of law remain within the sole purview and responsibility of the Immigration Judge.

It is important to note that no Benchbook or resource database can cover all of the factual situations and legal questions that arise in immigration courts. This Benchbook is not meant to be a stand-alone resource for addressing all questions pending before an Immigration Judge. Rather, it is a portal through which one can begin the journey for the correct answer on an issue in a case. There is no substitute for careful and thorough legal research which includes indepently checking all sources, citations, and authorities to make certain that they are applicable in the user’s jurisdiction. It is again stressed that a Judge should check the applicable law in their circuit prior to rendering a decision.

D. Work In Progress

Please keep in mind that this interactive Immigration Judge Benchbook is an innovative attempt to merge solid legal reasoning with the latest technology and in so doing support the nation’s Immigration Judges in the job that they do every day. The Benchbook was designed by Immigration Judges in collaboration with others for use by Immigration Judges. As with any new technological endeavor, needed changes and improvements are already ongoing as evidenced by this first revision undertaken in 2008. It is the hope of the Benchbook Committee that this interactive Benchbook will be a useful tool to assist Immigration Judges in continuing their duties in the immigration courts of this country on a daily basis.


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