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This week, the Chicago Immigration Court announced significant changes to the judicial structure of the Chicago Immigration Court:

Detained Court

  • Judge Sheila McNulty (previously a non-detained judge) is assuming the full time detained judge position vacated by Judge Eliza Klein, who recently retired.
  • Detained Judge Philip DiMarzio will be on leave for six weeks starting April 1, 2015, and is expected to retire before the end of this year, possibly by the summer.
  • Judge Virginia Perez Guzman (previously a non-detained judge) will temporarily take on a full detained docket.  All of her non-detained cases will be rescheduled.  It is unclear how long she will remain as a detained judge.

Non-Detained Court

  • Judge Jennie Giambastiani will continue to handle the juvenile docket for detained and non-detained unaccompanied immigrant children, as well as an adult non-detained docket.
  • Judge Robert Vinikoor and Judge Carlos Cuevas will each continue to have an adult, non-detained docket. 
  • The Court previously had six non-detained judges.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) is in the process of interviewing applicants for vacant immigration judge positions, but the immigration judge hiring and training process is lengthy.  As a result of the numerous vacancies at the Chicago Immigration Court, NIJC expects that most pro bono attorneys representing individuals before the Chicago Court will experience significant delays in the adjudication of their clients’ cases.  The only types of cases that may not experience delays are those involving unaccompanied immigrant children and recently arrived women and children whose cases are on the “family docket.”   These cases receive expedited scheduling pursuant to a 2014 EOIR policy memorandum.


If your NIJC pro bono case has been delayed due to the shortage of judges at the Chicago Immigration Court, please keep in mind the following information:

  1. If there are compelling reasons why your client needs to advance her hearing date, such as health concerns or derivative family members in danger in the home country, you could consider filing a motion to advance your client’s hearing dateRegistered users can download a sample motion to advance from NIJC’s brief and motions bank.  NIJC recommends that attorneys wait to file a motion to advance until preparations for their client’s hearing are nearly complete because if the motion is granted, the new hearing may be scheduled with little notice.

  2. If you are representing an asylum client whose one-year deadline will occur before your client’s new hearing date, you still MUST file your client’s I-589 asylum application prior to her one-year filing deadline.  Please consult with NIJC if your pro bono asylum client is in this situation.  Generally, to meet your client’s one-year deadline, you should:
      -  File a motion to advance your client’s hearing to a date prior to the one-year deadline; and
      -  “Lodge” your client’s I-589 asylum application at the court reception window prior to the one-year deadline.  For more information about lodging an asylum application, please see NIJC’s Asylum Clock FAQ and the Immigration Court Practice Manual.
  3. If you are representing an asylum client whose “asylum clock” had previously been stopped and your client’s next hearing date has now been delayed, please be aware that your client’s asylum clock should restart on the date of the previously scheduled hearing. 

    For example, if your client filed for asylum at her first Master Calendar hearing and declined an expedited hearing, her asylum clock would stop at 0 days.  If the judge scheduled her for a merits hearing on May 1, 2015, but then subsequently sua sponte continued the case until November 1, 2019, the clock would start to run on May 1, 2015, and would continue running until the next hearing date.  Once your client has accrued 150 days on her asylum clock, she is eligible to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD).  Please see NIJC’s Asylum Clock FAQ for more information about applying for an EAD.
  4. NIJC expects that many pro bono clients will be very distressed to learn of their hearing delays.  It is important to reassure your clients that all individuals in removal proceedings are experiencing the same delays and that the delay has nothing to do with the client’s particular case or the attorney.  Rather, it is the result of a broken immigration system and generally, the delays are outside of the control of the attorneys and the judges. 

    Some clients may ask whether their case would proceed more quickly if they moved to another part of the country and transferred their case to a different court.  Unfortunately, immigration courts across the country are experiencing similar delays, and generally, changing venue to another court results in additional delays in case processing.  Moreover, NIJC is only able to provide representation to clients whose cases are before the Chicago Immigration Court.  If a client moves outside of NIJC’s service area, NIJC must generally end representation of the client.

    Finally, it is important to maintain contact with your client during hearing delays and develop a communication plan so that you can touch base with your client on a regular basis.  During long hearing delays, NIJC strongly recommends speaking with your client at least every six months and reminding your client to contact you if there are any significant changes in their lives or if their contact information changes.

If you are an NIJC pro bono attorney with questions about the changes at the Chicago Immigration Court, please contact Carolina Ramazzina Van Moorsel.