In 2015, immigration Judge A. Ashley Tabaddor sued the United States Department of Justice after it forced her to recuse herself from “all immigration cases involving Iranians.”
According to reporting from NPR, Obama’s DOJ first became “concerned with the appearance of impropriety” after Tabaddor — who is of Iranian descent — attended a 2012 White House meeting with other high-profile Iranian-Americans.
NPR states that before signing off on her attending the meeting, Tabaddor’s DOJ superiors recommended she recuse herself from any future cases involving Iranian nationals, yet when she returned to Los Angeles after the summit, that recommendation “became an official order.”
National Association of Immigration Judges president Dana Leigh Marks confirmed to NPR that the DOJ’s demands of Tabaddor “[appeared] to be discriminatory based on her Iranian heritage.”
NPR’s Richard Gonzales noted that although immigration cases are assigned at random, “sometimes the parties will ask that a judge recuse him or herself if they suspect a conflict of interest or bias.”
“According to Judge Tabaddor’s lawsuit, no one [had] accused her of bias,” he added. “Instead, Justice Department officials were concerned with the appearance of impropriety.”
The DOJ eventually settled with Tabaddor for $200,000 and promised to “review its recusal policies” back in November of 2015.
Recently, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has received heavy, bi-partisan criticism for comments he has made about Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the Mexican-American federal judge presiding over the Trump University lawsuit. (VIDEO: Judge Presiding Over Trump University Lawsuit Is Member Of La Raza Lawyers Group)
Trump had argued that Curiel — “who is proud of his heritage” — should recuse himself from hearing the case because his immigration platform poses an “inherent conflict of interest.” (RELATED: Trump — Comments About Trump U Judge Were ‘Misconstrued’)