Building One Community honors the memory of Judge Robert A. Katzmann, who died this past week. Among his many professional and personal contributions, Judge Katzmann created the Immigrant Justice Corps, a program that enables recent law school graduates to gain in-depth experience in immigration law and represent immigrants that are facing nearly impossible odds for relief in immigration court without an attorney.
The New York Times published a moving tribute to Judge Katzmann on June 11th that explains his motivation in creating IJC.
The expansive, generous attitude Judge Katzmann brought to his work on the bench extended to his engagement with the people whose lives and futures were affected by his rulings. As the son of a refugee from Nazi Germany, Judge Katzmann was deeply aware of how destructive it can be for citizens to feel abandoned by the law.
He noticed this particularly in immigration cases, where many litigants spoke no English and the quality of their legal representation was often shockingly poor. “I was really having trouble sleeping, thinking about what an awful situation this is,” he told me in 2018. “And then I realized there was an even more fundamental problem, and that is, most immigrants didn’t have lawyers at all. And if you don’t have a lawyer, you’re really in difficult shape.” Judge Katzmann began to study the issue and found that immigrants with lawyers had a 74 percent chance of winning their cases. Without a lawyer, that number dropped to 13 percent.
Building One Community is fortunate and grateful to be a partner with Immigration Justice Corps. We have hosted IJC Fellows since 2019 and will continue to do so, making it possible for many of the unrepresented immigrants in Fairfield County to have their day in court.
U.S. Senior Federal District Court Judge Jed Rakoff said, “No judge ever took a broader view of the role of a judge in promoting justice in our society, or was more successful in turning those views into practical accomplishment.”
Robert A. Katzmann’s obituary is here.
The NYT Op-Ed tribute by Jesse Wegman is here.