Using Benchbook Templates to Craft an Oral Decision
A. Selecting an Appropriate Template
This interactive benchbook offers the immigration judge templates
that can be used as the foundation upon which to construct a solid
and well-reasoned decision. The book then links the selected template
to legal citations and authorities that can be inserted into the template
to support the decision.
The first task in using this book is to select the appropriate template
upon which to build one's decision. There are two types of templates
offered in this book: law-specific templates and generic templates.
Law-specific templates are templates that address a particular area
of immigration law. Such templates may, for example, address whether
the elements needed to sustain a particular ground of removal are
present or whether eligibility for a particular form of relief has
Generic templates include the basic elements that need to be included
in any immigration judge decision and are generally used where no
law-specific template addressing the issue at hand is available.
The first step in using this book is to peruse the generic template
to see if a law-specific template addressing the issues before you
exists. For example, if you are deciding an asylum case, look for
an asylum template. If you are deciding a cancellation of removal
case, look for a cancellation of removal template. Try to find the
template that most closely addresses the issues before you.
If there is no law-specific template available or the law-specific
template offered does not meet your needs, you will need to use a
generic template and build your own decision. You can build a decision
using the generic template by following the steps below.
How to Build a Decision Using the Generic Template
1. Getting Started:
Click on the "Generic Template" button.
If you get a security warning, click "Open."
If you get a message asking if you want to continue, click "Yes."
A generic template will open up as an editable word processing document
Start by filling in the case caption.
Choosing Introductory Paragraphs:
After the caption, there are five headings or sections that are commonly
included at the beginning of an oral decision. These are:
a. Introduction and Jurisdictional Statement
Service of the Notice to Appear
Ten Day Period
Burden of Proof on Removal Charge
Under each heading is suggested language that may
be used in the oral decision relating to that particular heading.
Review and select (and edit as necessary) the language under each
heading that most closely fits the case pending before you.
You can select text by: 1) printing the generic template and marking
the text that you choose to include in your decision, 2) by printing
the generic template and crossing out text that you choose not to
include in your decision, 3) by making deletions and additions right
in the body of the word processing document on your screen, 4) by
printing and cutting and pasting relevant sections, or 5) by any other
method that works for you.
When you have completed this step for each of the five headings, move
to Step 3 below.
Choosing a "Statement of Law on Removability/Inadmissibility"
- 3 Options:
The "Statement of Law on Removability/Inadmissibility" section
lists commonly addressed grounds of removal and inadmissibility.
Under each ground of removal/inadmissibility, you have up to three
options or links containing text to choose from. Each option appears
as a hyperlink and contains different types of language that may be
inserted into your oral decision. The three link options are :
Option 1: Templates
Clicking the template link will take you to a draft decision that
addresses the specific ground of removability/inadmissibility above
that link. For example, clicking a template under "controlled
substance violations" will take you to a draft decision that
discusses removability for violating a law relating to a controlled
Option 2: Standard Language
If there is no template link listed for your topic area or if the
draft decision under the template link does not meet your needs, your
second option is to click on the "Standard Language" link.
The standard language link contains widely accepted principles of
law relating to the link topic that may be inserted into the oral
decision and used to research and build your decision.
Note: The generic template also contains links to standard language
that may be referred to in dictating a decision explaining one's credibility
findings. This text is accessed by clicking the word "credible"
wherever it appears in the generic template.
Option 3: Additional Resources
If the standard language under Option 2 does not meet your needs,
Option 3 is to click the additional resources button. This button
takes you to a collection of helpful and regularly updated legal resources
that you can use to build your own decision.
4. Summarizing the Evidentiary Record, Making Findings of Fact, and
Drawing Conclusions of Law:
Once you have completed the "Statement of Law on Removability/Inadmissibility,"
the next step is to fill in the paragraphs that ask you to list the
evidentiary record of the proceeding, make findings of fact, and draw
conclusions of law. Due to the wide range of possible outcomes, no
standard or suggested language is available here. You will have to
draft these paragraphs on your own. We have, however, given you some
guidelines that may help you get started and help frame your paragraphs.
5. Designating a Country of Removal:
This section is self-explanatory and works the same as "Choosing
Introductory Paragraphs" explained in Number 2 above.
6. Addressing Relief Issues:
The six paragraphs that follow the designation of a country of removal
in the generic template address issues of relief and are used in the
same fashion as the paragraphs on issues of removability/inadmissibility
explained in Numbers 2, 3, and 4 above.
7. Conclusion - Requests and Orders:
To conclude your decision, rule on any motions or requests pending
and enter your order in the case. We have included some sample orders
for your consideration. We have also included the text of warnings
to the respondent which may be required by law in certain types of
8. Dictating the Decision
At this point, using the template, you should have a completed draft
of your oral decision. Depending on how you decided to use the template
and prepare your decision, you should now be able to take the printed
generic template with your notations and changes on it with you to
the bench or print out the draft decision you prepared in word processing
and dictate your oral decision.
If you edited the generic template in WordPerfect to reflect your
preferences, your edited document can be named and saved for future
use as with any other word processing document.