Text: S.663 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)All Information (Except Text)

There is one version of the bill.

Text available as:

Shown Here:
Introduced in Senate (03/05/2019)

[Congressional Bills 116th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
[S. 663 Introduced in Senate (IS)]


  1st Session
                                 S. 663

  To clarify the status and enhance the effectiveness of immigration 
                    courts, and for other purposes.



                             March 5, 2019

  Ms. Hirono (for herself, Ms. Harris, Mr. Sanders, Ms. Cortez Masto, 
 Mrs. Gillibrand, Ms. Klobuchar, Ms. Smith, and Mr. Booker) introduced 
the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee 
                            on the Judiciary


                                 A BILL

  To clarify the status and enhance the effectiveness of immigration 
                    courts, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the ``Immigration Court Improvement Act of 


    (a) Finding.--Congress finds that the United States tradition as a 
nation of laws and a nation of immigrants is best served by effective, 
fair, and impartial immigration judges who have decisional independence 
and are free from political influence.
    (b) Sense of Congress.--It is the sense of Congress that--
            (1) immigration judges--
                    (A) should be fair and impartial; and
                    (B) should have decisional independence that is 
                free from political pressure or influence; and
            (2) in order to promote even-handed, non-biased, decision-
        making that is representative of the public at large, 
        immigration judges should be selected from a broad pool of 
        candidates with a variety of legal experience, such as law 
        professors, private practitioners, representatives of pro bono 
        service and other nongovernmental organizations, military 
        officers, and government employees.


    (a) Defined Term.--Section 101(b)(4) of the Immigration and 
Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(b)(4)) is amended to read as follows:
    ``(4)(A) The term `immigration judge' means an attorney who--
            ``(i) has been appointed by the Attorney General to serve 
        as a United States immigration judge; and
            ``(ii) is qualified to conduct proceedings under this Act, 
        including removal proceedings under section 240.
    ``(B) An immigration judge shall be subject to such supervision and 
shall perform such duties as the Attorney General shall prescribe as 
long as such supervision does not interfere with the immigration 
judge's exercise of independent decision-making authority over cases in 
which he or she presides.
    ``(C) An immigration judge shall be an attorney at the time of his 
or her appointment by the Attorney General and shall maintain good 
standing or appropriate judicial status (as defined solely by the 
licensing jurisdiction) with the bar of the highest court of any State.
    ``(D) The service of an immigration judge is deemed to be judicial 
in nature. Actions taken by an immigration judge while serving in a 
judicial capacity shall be reviewed under the applicable Code of 
Judicial Conduct. Immigration judges shall not be subject to any code 
of attorney behavior for conduct or actions taken while performing 
duties as an immigration judge.
    ``(E) An immigration judge may not be disciplined for any good 
faith legal decisions made in the course of hearing and deciding cases. 
Criticism of an immigration judge, in a decision of any appellate court 
may not be considered or construed as a finding of misconduct.''.
    (b) Performance Appraisals.--Any system of completion goals or 
other efficiency standards imposed on immigration judges (as defined in 
section 101(b)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act)--
            (1) may be used solely as management tools for obtaining or 
        allocating resources; and
            (2) may not be used--
                    (A) to limit the independent authority of 
                immigration judges to fulfill their duties; or
                    (B) as a reflection of individual judicial 
    (c) Judicial Complaint Process.--Not later than 180 days after the 
date of the enactment of this Act, the Attorney General shall establish 
a transparent judicial complaint process that is consistent with--
            (1) the Guidelines for the Evaluation of Judicial 
        Performance developed by the American Bar Association; and
            (2) the judicial performance evaluation principles 
        developed by the Institute for the Advancement of the American 
        Legal System.
    (d) Annual Leave.--Every immigration judge shall be presumed to 
have 15 years of Federal civilian service for the purpose of the 
accrual of annual leave.
    (e) Continuing Legal Education.--
            (1) In general.--In addition to the training required under 
        section 603(c) of the International Religious Freedom Act of 
        1998 (22 U.S.C. 6473(c)), the Attorney General shall provide 
        immigration judges with--
                    (A) meaningful, ongoing training, including annual, 
                in-person training, to maintain current knowledge of 
                immigration cases, changes in the law and effective 
                docketing practices; and
                    (B) time away from the bench to assimilate the 
                knowledge gained through such training.
            (2) Service to the legal profession.--Because of the 
        ethical duty owed by immigration judges to participate in 
        continuing legal education, including teaching of law at 
        institutions of higher learning and other activities to educate 
        the public and to improve the legal profession, the Attorney 
        General may not prevent or interfere with the participation of 
        an immigration judge in any such bona fide activities if--
                    (A) undertaken in conjunction with an established 
                university, law school, bar association, or legal 
                organization; and
                    (B) the immigration judge clearly indicates that 
                such participation is in his or her personal capacity 
                and does not reflect any official positions or 
    (f) Contempt Authority.--
            (1) Rulemaking.--
                    (A) Interim regulations.--Not later than 60 days 
                after the date of the enactment of this Act, the 
                Attorney General shall promulgate interim regulations 
                governing the exercise of the authority given to 
                immigration judges under section 240(b)(1) of the 
                Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1229a(b)(1)) 
                to sanction contempt of an immigration judge's exercise 
                of authority under such Act.
                    (B) Final regulations.--Not later than 180 days 
                after the date of the enactment of this Act, the 
                Attorney General shall promulgate final regulations 
                governing the authority described in subparagraph (A).
            (2) Effect of failure to promulgate regulations.--If the 
        Attorney General fails to comply with subparagraph (1)(B), 
        immigration judges shall--
                    (A) make appropriate findings of contempt; and
                    (B) submit such findings to the United States 
                District Court for the judicial district in which the 
                immigration judge is physically located.