The Do's and Don'ts at the Immigration Court
This guide is for new immigration attorneys who have not been to court yet, or who do not have a lot of experience. This guide is meant to take away some of the stress and nervousness associated with your day at the immigration court. Good luck!
Before Going to CourtLike with any other practice, in immigration too, speaking to your client and figuring out the purpose of the court hearing is the most important part. If you are preparing for a Master hearing, then make sure you go over the pleadings with your client, if there is a Notice to Appear. Make sure you prepare all the applications and supporting documentations according to the rules of the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) if you are going to file anything with the Immigration Judge (IJ).
Become familiar with the specific IJ's likes and dislikes. You do not want to do something that will irritate the IJ before you even start the hearing. What you can do beforehand is ask around about that IJ's specific requirements or the courtroom etiquette. If you cannot ask your colleagues, then you can always call the IJ's legal assistant and ask her or him specifically. Plan your calls to the Immigration Court accordingly because sometimes it takes them a few days to return your call. Certain IJs are very easygoing and you can approach the clerk at any time, even if there is a hearing in session. Other judges, however, do not want you to approach the clerk once court is in session. Some of them want you to take your EOIR-28 to the clerk as a way of checking in, while others will require you to sign your name or your client's name on a sign-in sheet.
Make sure you know your client's file really well, especially the important dates and facts. For example, it looks very unprofessional when the IJ inquires about the client's date of entry, place of entry, or country of origin, and an attorney has to flip through pages in court in order to answer a simple question like that. It is always advisable to do your homework before court, learn and remember those simple, yet very important facts about your client's case. IJs usually do not appreciate when attorneys waste their time.
During the HearingOnce you get to court, you need to check in with the IJ's clerk so that they know you are in court, that your client is represented by a client, and whether or not your client is present or not. Make sure you speak to your client, and are aware if they are running late, so that you can properly notify the court, and have other attorneys go before the IJ before it's your turn.
Speak to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) attorney to make sure that they have received all the filings that you did before going to court. If you need to get a copy of an NTA, then ask for a courtesy copy. Any communication that you need to do with the trial attorney should be done before the hearing starts. Remember to be courteous with the trial attorney because a lot depends on them. However, at the same time you have to protect your client's interests. This means that you cannot let them push you or your client around. They are bound by the rules of the court just like you. However, developing a friendly relationship with trial attorneys will never harm you, if anything it might make certain things easier.
Be prepared to enter the pleadings, whether oral or written, and file your applications and supporting documentation. Always have one original, for the IJ, and two copies of everything. One copy will go to the DHS Counsel and the other is for you. Moreover, have a copy of your calendar with you. The IJ will set date for the Individual (Merits) hearing, unless you need another Master hearing for any reason. Have your calendar so that you know your availability. Once the IJ offers you a date, do everything in your power to take the first date IJ offers, otherwise, if it's an Asylum case, choosing a date other than the first one that IJ offers will stop your client's clock, and they will not be able to get a work permit.