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U.S. Department of Justice
Executive Office for Immigration Review
Office of the Director
5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 2400
Falls Church, Virginia 22041

NEWS RELEASE Contact: Public Affairs Office
(703)305-0289, Fax: (703) 605-0365

March 20, 2001


The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) announced today that Paul Wickham Schmidt will be stepping down as the Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals (Board), effective April 9, 2001. Schmidt, who has served as Chairman since joining the Board in February 1995, will continue to serve as a Board Member on the 21-member appellate body, the Nation's highest tribunal interpreting the immigration laws.

"Having fostered a number of initiatives to improve case processing and customer service during my term as Chairman, I have decided on reflection that this is a good stopping point," said Schmidt. "I would like to shift my focus to our deliberative process, and I feel that I could best contribute by adjudicating appellate matters full time."

Accepting Schmidt's decision to step down as Board Chairman, EOIR Director Kevin D. Rooney praised him as "an exemplary leader during a time of dynamic change and tremendous progress at the Board."

During Schmidt's term as Chairman, the Board expanded from 5 to 21 Members and decided more than 130,000 cases, including nearly 200 precedent decisions that provide essential national guidance on immigration law. Under his leadership, the Board also created a new management structure; established the first unified Clerk's Office to support the direct filing of appeals; developed a more efficient and productive en banc deliberative process; held oral arguments outside the Washington, DC, area for the first time; issued its award-winning Board of Immigration Appeals Practice Manual and Questions and Answers; created a highly successful Virtual Law Library on the EOIR Web site to provide precedent decisions and up-to-date research information at no charge to the public; and instituted the first Pro Bono Appeals Pilot Program.

The Board is also now piloting a Streamlined Appeals System, resulting from several years of study and regulatory changes addressing the fair and timely adjudication of the Board's large appellate case load. The preliminary results of the streamlining pilot, which also integrates new technology into case processing, shows more than a 20 percent increase in case completions.

In a message to Board employees announcing his decision to step down as Chairman, he thanked them for their hard work and support, saying, "We have been guided at all times by our shared principles of fairness, scholarship, timeliness, respect, and teamwork."

Vice Chairman Lori L. Scialabba will serve as the Acting Chairman until a new Chairman is appointed.

- EOIR -
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