Immigration Court is Out of Sessions: Restoring Nonregulatory Termination to Immigration Judges Post–Matter of S-O-G- & F-D-B-

By Susanna Booth

In 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions promulgated three Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decisions that sharply curtailed the power of immigration judges (IJs) to manage their own dockets and safeguard the due process rights of immigrant respondents. One such decision, Matter of S-O-G- & F-D-B-, eliminated IJs’ ability to terminate proceedings outside of specific circumstances, removing a traditional tool IJs used to dispense with unnecessary or unconstitutional proceedings.

Yet recent circuit court decisions undergird the conclusion that Matter of S-O-G- & F-D-B-’s reasoning is incorrect. This Note first traces the long history of expanding IJ authority, highlighting IJs’ gradual recognition of a discretionary termination power. After examining the reasoning of S-O-G- & F-D-B-, this Note then argues that, contrary to the Attorney General’s interpretation, IJs do possess the inherent authority to terminate removal proceedings, even outside of circumstances specifically identified by statute. Finally, this Note considers the viability of eventual challenges to S-O-G- & F-D-B- and argues that either executive, legislative, or judicial action is necessary to restore IJs’ power to discretionarily terminate proceedings and protect the rights of immigrant respondents.

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