The Department of Justice just can’t make up its mind.

Removal of the Immigration Judge Benchbook

Sometime in April, 2017 the Department of Justice removed the Immigration Judge Benchbook from the internet without any announcement or warning. The benchbook is a resource for immigration judges, but at times it can be quite helpful for attorneys and immigrants to have access to it as well.

We wrote about the removal in April, 2017 and tried to reconstruct what we could from archived versions here. I also submitted several FOIA requests and will post all updates here.

Then, in April or May, 2017 the DOJ put a highly abbreviated version back online.

What has changed?

As of today, apparently the benchbook has been removed again. We’re not sure why.

This include various items that were hosted on the DOJ’s website for IJs to use, like this template oral decision. Just a month ago, it was a robust, lengthy oral decision template IJs could use to help them make decisions without having to write them out. Now it’s a broken link. And the DOJ isn’t explaining what has happened. The complete benchbook used to be here ([]) but now it’s just a broken link.

In response to our FOIA request the DOJ mailed me a cd with 29 .pdf files on it, but clearly most of the benchbook was missing. I sent an administrative appeal showing them that the DOJ site still links to a number of other resources that were in the old benchbook but which haven’t been produced and which are still missing.

Then on January 4, 2018 the DOJ granted my appeal. It said it would send the FOIA request back to the agency for them to release the rest of the records.

Sometime after my appeal was granted, the agency took the new benchbook (which wasn’t the complete benchbook) off the site again. And it’s not back up.

What are they up to? I would hope that they’re improving the benchbook to make IJs’ already-burdensome jobs easier. We will have to wait and see.

May 15, 2020 update: the full benchbook has now been produced via FOIA and is here.