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Conduct that was labeled abusive by a federal appeals court in two separate opinions issued the same day may have been the last straw for Philadelphia immigration Judge Donald V. Ferlise, who is no longer hearing immigration cases. It didn’t help that the 3d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held oral arguments the very day that U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced a “comprehensive review of the immigration courts” with an eye to immigration judges who fail to treat aliens with appropriate respect, according to the opinion by Judge Maryanne Trump Barry. This is the third time since January that a panel has asked that Ferlise be removed from rehearing the cases, including the two issued on April 28. Cham v. Gonzales, No. 04-4251; Shaw v. Gonzales, No. 04-3607; and Sukwanputra v. Gonzales, No. 04-3336. In the highly unusual Jan. 9 arguments, the 3d Circuit panel asked Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Cohn to appear to explain the Justice Department’s discipline system for the 220 immigration judges under its control. Barry wrote that, despite Gonzales’ expressed concern for respectful treatment of immigrants, under Ferlise’s “bullying” questioning, “a petitioner was ground to bits.” It is unclear whether Ferlise is off the bench indefinitely or simply for the month of June because officials at the Executive Office of Immigration Review, the Philadelphia immigration clerk and regional immigration authorities refused to answer questions about Ferlise’s status, even though it is publicly available to immigration lawyers. All questions were referred to the Department of Justice, which declined to comment. But several local immigration lawyers said that the Philadelphia court informed them new judges have been assigned to upcoming hearings previously assigned to Ferlise. “We have been told he is off cases indefinitely and that he is off for the month of June,” said Joseph Hohenstein, immigration lawyer with Orlow & Orlow on the Cham case. Hohenstein said that it was unclear which is accurate. Ferlise did not respond to a request for comment. This marks the fifth time published opinions have taken Ferlise to task for “crude and cruel” conduct or “intemperate and bias-laden” remarks in asylum cases.

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