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The Justice Department still appears to be having trouble controlling the excesses of some of its immigration judges. In two separate decisions on Monday affecting religious persecution and violence toward homosexuals, the 7th and 8th Circuits criticized the same judge, and the 7th Circuit went so far as to refer the judge for potential discipline by the Justice Department. Immigration Judge Craig Zerbe in the 7th Circuit case had rejected a Romanian Seventh-Day Adventist couple’s asylum claim based on religious persecution and death threats. The judge called them “essentially zealots” who practice in a way “often offensive” in Romania and the United States. Zerbe accused them of contributing to the hostility by “their aggressive proselytizing.” The Board of Immigration Appeals called the judge’s remarks inappropriate but “harmless” and upheld the decision. The Circuit panel found clear bias on Zerbe’s part and that he disregarded evidence that corroborated the family’s testimony of violent attacks against Seventh-Day Adventists in Romania. In referring him for potential discipline, the panel noted it is the second time they have criticized Zerbe for “unsupported speculation” in asylum cases, Floroiu v. Gonzales, 06-1333. In the 8th Circuit case, the court reinstated the asylum request of an Albanian who said he faced police persecution for his homosexuality and political activities. In that case Zerbe said, from personal experience, he could tell the Albanian was not homosexual because “neither his dress, nor his mannerisms, nor his style of speech give any indication that he is homosexual.” The panel rejected the decision as biased and urged the Attorney General to reassign the case to a new judge, Shahinaj v. Gonzales, 06-1573. The panel did not identify the immigration judge by name.

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