EOIR Swears in 23 New Immigration Judges

Wendy Barlow's picture

On August 16, 2018, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) announced that it had sworn in 23 new immigration judges [PDF version]. With the 23 new immigration judges, the immigration judge corps numbers 351. Furthermore, the EOIR stated that it plans to add at least 75 more immigration judges in fall 2018.

The EOIR attributed the large number of new immigration judges to Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to streamline the hiring process [see blog]. The EOIR states that as a result of the new hiring processes, the 23 immigration judges recently sworn in were hired in a process taking approximately 266 days, significantly lower than the average of 742 days for new immigration judge hires in 2017.

The 23 new immigration judges will serve on 15 immigration courts across the United States. Of note, the New York City Immigration Court will welcome four new immigration judges [see section]. The following is the list of immigration courts welcoming new judges:

Baltimore (Maryland)
Chicago (Illinois)
Cleveland (Ohio)
El Paso (Texas)
Falls Church (Virginia)
Harlingen (Texas)
LaSalle (Louisiana)
Los Angeles (California)
Miami (Florida)
New York City (New York)
Oakdale (Louisiana)
Pearsall (Texas)
San Antonio (Texas)
Ulster (New York)

Below, we will list the new immigration judges and provide brief biographical summaries for each. We have sorted the immigration judges by the immigration courts on which they serve, with the courts listed in alphabetical order. The EOIR released the list of new immigration judges along with biographical details in a separate document [PDF version].

To read about other recent immigration judge investitures, please see our index article [see index].

Baltimore Immigration Court: Immigration Judge David C. Koelsch

IJ David C. Koelsch began hearing cases at the Baltimore Immigration Court in August 2018. Prior to beginning his service on the immigration bench, IJ Koelsch had experience in government and academia, with both relating to immigration. From 2017 to 2018, Koelsch was a supervisory asylum officer with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in Arlington, Virgina. From 2015 to 2017, he was an appeals officer with the USCIS's Administrative Appeals Office (AAO). Before entering government service, Koelsch was a law professor at Detroit Mercy School of Law and served as director of its Immigration Law Clinic. He had previously been an attorney in private practice. Immigration Judge Koelsch has a law degree from Catholic University.

Baltimore Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Zakia Mahasa

IJ Zakia Mahasa began hearing cases at the Baltimore Immigration Court in August 2018. She served as a magistrate judge in the Maryland Circuit Court for Baltimore from 1997 to 2018. Prior to her service as a magistrate, Mahasa was an attorney for the House of Ruth domestic violence legal clinic and an attorney with the Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland. She has a law degree from the University of Maryland, Carey School of Law.

Chicago Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Patrick M. McKenna

IJ Patrick M. McKenna began hearing cases at the Chicago Immigration Court in August 2018. Prior to being hired as an IJ, McKenna served as an attorney for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from 2006 to 2018 in Chicago and Washington D.C.. McKenna had previously been a state prosecutor from 2002 to 2006 after working in private practice. He has a law degree from the University of Notre Dame Law School.

Chicago Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Kaarina Salovaara

IJ Kaarina Salovaara began hearing cases at the Chicago Immigration Court in August 2018. Prior to beginning service on the immigration bench, Salovaara had a long career as a prosecutor, serving as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois for 27 years, from 1991 to 2018. From 1981 to 1991, Salovaara worked in private practice. She had previously been a law clerk for Judge Barbara B. Crabb of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. Immigration Judge Salovaara has a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School.

Cleveland Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Jonathan W. Owens

Immigration Judge Jonathan W. Owens began hearing cases at the Cleveland Immigration Court in August 2018. Prior to beginning service on the immigration bench, Owen was an administrative law judge (ALJ) manager from 2014 to 2018. He was an ALJ for the State of Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs in Detroit from 2007 to 2014. He had previously worked in the Office of Child Support for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Immigration Judge Owens has a law degree from Michigan State University, Detroit College of Law.

El Paso Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Nathan L. Herbert

Immigration Judge Nathan L. Herbert began hearing cases at the El Paso Immigration Court in August 2018. Prior to beginning his service on the immigration bench, Herbert worked in several important immigration-related positions at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). From 2015 to 2018, Herbert was an attorney with ICE in San Antonio, Texas. From 2009 to 2015, he served in a similar capacity with ICE in Denver. From 2008 to 2009, he was an attorney advisor with EOIR in Denver. Immigration Judge Herbert has a law degree from Michigan State University College of Law.

Falls Church Immigration Adjudication Center: Immigration Judge George J. Ward Jr.

Immigration Judge George J. Ward Jr. began hearing cases at the Falls Church Immigration Adjudication Center in August 2018. IJ Ward has extensive experience in as a government attorney for various immigration components of the DHS and the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). From 1999 to 2018, he served in various capacities as an ICE attorney in both Virginia and Washington D.C. His most recent position was as deputy chief in the Office of Chief Counsel, ICE, DHS, from 2012 to 2018. Prior to his work in the federal government, Ward was an assistant district attorney for the Nassau County District Attorney's Office in Mineola, New York. He has a law degree from St. John's University School of Law.

Harlingen Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Daniel B. Gilbert

Immigration Judge Daniel B. Gilbert began hearing cases at the Harlingen Immigration Court in August 2018. Prior to beginning his service on the immigration bench, IJ Gilbert served for six years as an assistant chief counsel for ICE, both in Harlingen, Texas, and Baltimore, Maryland. He had previously been a staff attorney with the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 2009 to 2011. Immigration Judge Gilbert has a law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

LaSalle Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Angela Munson

Immigration Judge Angela Munson began hearing cases at the LaSalle Immigration Court in August 2018. Before becoming an immigration judge, Munson complied extensive experience as a prosecutor. From 1998 to 2018, Munson worked as an assistant U.S. Attorney in various capacities in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia. From 1994 to 1998, she was a local prosecutor as an assistant district attorney with the Office of the Fulton County District Attorney. From 2011 to 2012, she served as a legal advisor to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. Immigration Judge Munson has a law degree from Tulane Law School.

Los Angeles Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Robert A. Fellrath

Immigration Judge Robert A. Fellrath began hearing cases at the Los Angeles Immigration Court in August 2018. Prior to beginning service on the immigration bench, IJ Fellrath was an assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tucson, Arizona, from 2008 to 2018. From 2007 to 2008, he was an assistant federal public defender. From 2000 to 2018, Fellrath served with the Judge Advocate General's Corps in the U.S. Army. He has a law degree from the University of Notre Dame.

Los Angeles Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Natalie B. Huddleston

Immigration Judge Natalie B. Huddleston began hearing cases at the Los Angeles Immigration Court in August 2018. Prior to becoming an immigration judge, Huddleston's experience came primarily as a prosecutor. She was a federal prosecutor in Phoenix from 2014 to 2018, and a state prosecutor in various offices in Arizona from 2004 to 2014. She has a law degree from the University of Notre Dame.

Los Angeles Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Nancy E. Miller

Immigration Judge Nancy E. Miller began hearing cases at the Los Angeles Immigration Court in August 2018. Prior to becoming an immigration judge, Miller had 33 years of experience in private law practice from 1985 to 2018. She has a law degree from Southwestern University School of Law.

Los Angeles Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Jason R. Waterloo

Immigration Judge Jason R. Waterloo began hearing cases at the Los Angeles Immigration Court in August 2018. From 2014 to 2018, now-IJ Waterloo worked as an assistant chief counsel for ICE in Los Angeles. From 2008 to 2014, he was an assistant district attorney with the Berks County District Attorney's Office in Reading, Pennsylvania. He has a law degree from the West Virginia University College of Law.

Miami Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Michael G. Walleisa

Immigration Judge Michael G. Walleisa began hearing cases at the Miami Immigration Court in August 2018. Prior to becoming an immigration judge, Walleisa worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in various capacities with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida in Miami. Notably, he was an assistant U.S. attorney with the National Security Section from 2002 to 2018. From 1985 to 1989, he was a state prosecutor in Dade County, Florida. He has a law degree from Temple University School of Law.

New York City Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Lena Golovnin

Immigration Judge Lena Golovnin began hearing cases at the New York City Immigration Court in August 2018. She has extensive experience as a federal lawyer in the immigration context. From 2010 to 2018, now-IJ Golovnin was assistant chief counsel for the Office of Chief Counsel, ICE, DHS, in Manhattan. She was an attorney advisor for EOIR in New York from 2009 to 2010, and in San Antonio from 2008 to 2009. She has a law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

In a special note, we at The Law Offices of Grinberg & Segal, PLLC, have had nothing but good experiences dealing with Immigration Judge Golovnin when she was an ICE attorney. We wish her the best of luck in her difficult new job, and fully expect that she will prove to be an excellent immigration judge.

New York City Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Cynthia Gordon

Immigration Judge Cynthia Gordon began hearing cases at the New York City Immigration Court in August 2018. Prior to becoming an immigration judge, IJ Gordon served as assistant chief counsel for the Office of Chief Counsel, ICE, DHS, in Manhattan. Before her work for ICE, she was a state and local prosecutor, working for the New York Attorney General's Office from 2001 to 2007, and as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan from 1994 to 2001. She has a law degree from Cornell Law School.

New York City Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Howard C. Hom

Immigration Judge Howard C. Hom began hearing cases at the New York City Immigration Court in August 2018. IJ Hom has one of the more varied resumes of the 23 new immigration judges. From 2016 to 2018, he worked as an immigration attorney in private practice. From 2009 to 2016, he served as an ALJ for the California Unemployment Insurance Review Board. IJ Hom worked in private practice from 1981 to 2009. From 1976 to 1981, Hom was a general and trial attorney with the former Immigration and Naturalization Service. He has a law degree from Loyola Law School.

New York City Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Michael G. McFarland

Immigration Judge Michael G. McFarland began hearing cases at the New York City Immigration Court in August 2018. Prior to becoming an immigration judge, McFarland served as assistant chief counsel and then deputy chief counsel for ICE in Manhattan from 2011 to 2018. Previously, he was a staff attorney for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 2007 to 2011. He has a law degree from New York University School of Law.

Oakdale Immigration Court: Immigration Judge W. Scott Laragy

Immigration Judge W. Scott Laragy began hearing cases at the Oakdale Immigration Court in August 2018. IJ Laragly was counsel to the direct of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA), which is a component of the Department of Justice (DOJ), from 2017 to 2018. He had been legislative counsel for the EOUSA from 2012 to 2017. From 2007 to 2017, IJ Laragy was an assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Orleans. Laragy is also a military lawyer in the Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps with the U.S. Navy. He was on active duty from 1995 to 2007 and is currently serving in the naval reserves. Immigration Judge Laragy has a law degree from Loyola University New Orleans.

Otero Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Kathleen French

Immigration Judge Kathleen French began hearing cases at the Otero Immigration Court in August 2018. IJ French has extensive experience in the federal immigration context. From 2000 to 2018, she was an assistant chief counsel and deputy chief counsel for ICE in several locations. She worked as a judicial law clerk with EOIR from 1999 to 2000, and with the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit from 1997 to 1999. IJ French has also been a military lawyer. From 1998 to 2013, she served in several reserve-duty roles in the U.S. Army JAG corps. Prior to earning her law degree, from 1982 to 1994, she served on active duty in the United States Coast Guard as a shipboard law enforcement officer. Immigration Judge French has a law degree from George Mason University.

Pearsall Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Stuart D. Alcorn

Immigration Judge Stuart D. Alcorn began hearing cases at the Pearsall Immigration Court in August 2018. IJ Alcorn has experience as a federal immigration lawyer and as a military lawyer. From 2008 to 2018, he served as an assistant chief counsel for ICE in San Antonio. From 2008 to 2017, he served as a military defense attorney in the JAG corps, U.S. Army Reserve. From 2005 to 2008, he was a military prosecutor and command judge advocate in the U.S. Army. Immigration Judge Alcorn has a law degree from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University.

San Antonio Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Eric J. Tijerina

Immigration Judge Eric J. Tijerina began hearing cases at the San Antonio Immigration Court in August 2018. Prior to becoming an immigration judge, Tijerina was a policy analyst with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from 2015 to 2018. He worked in various immigration-related capacities prior to serving as a policy analyst at USCIS. From 2014 to 2015, Tijerina was the associate director of the Immigrant Children's Legal Program of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in Arlington, Virginia. From 2010 to 2014, he was the director of legal programs at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services in San Antonio, Texas. From 2008 to 2010, he was supervising attorney for the St. Mary's University School of Law Immigration Clinic in San Antonio. From 2006 to 2008, Tijerina was the lead attorney at the Legal Orientation Program of the Political Asylum Project of Austin, Texas. He has a law degree from St. Mary's School of Law.

Ulster Immigration Court: Immigration Judge Nelson A. Vargas-Padilla

Immigration Judge Nelson A. Vargas-Padilla began hearing cases at the Ulster Immigration Court in August 2018. IJ Vargas-Padilla worked extensively as an attorney for both DHS and the former INS before becoming an immigration judge. From 2016 to 2018, Vargas-Padilla was litigation and national security counsel for USCIS in Washington D.C. From 2015 to 2016, he worked for the USCIS Refugee Affairs Division in Kenya and Malaysia. From 2013 to 2016, he was transformation counsel for the USCIS's Transformation Law Division in Washington D.C. From 2009 to 2013, he was deputy chief counsel for ICE in Baltimore, after having served as senior attorney from 2007 to 2009 and assistant chief counsel from 2001 to 2007. From 1996 to 2001, Vargas-Padilla was an attorney advisor for the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). He has a law degree from the University of Buffalo School of Law.

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EOIR Swears in 23 New Immigration Judges