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Report: High-Ranking Immigration Judge Threatened Guatemalan Toddler with a “Very Big Dog”

— September 10, 2019

The independent observer who reported Judge V. Stuart Couch says it wasn’t the first time he’d threatened kids with dogs.

An immigration judge allegedly threatened a Guatemalan toddler, saying he “a very big dog” would “come out and bite you” if the boy didn’t quiet down.

The boy, says Mother Jones, was taken to court by his mother for an immigration hearing. While the appearance took place all the way back in March 2016, it’s only just started to make news. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the toddler’s mom who made the report, but an ‘independent observer’ present at court.

“I have a very big dog in my office, and if you don’t be quiet, he will come out and bite you,” Judge V. Stuart Couch told the child, as alleged in an affidavit signed by Kathryn Coiner-Collier.

Coiner-Collier, says The Hill, was a coordinator at a Charlotte, North Carolina-area legal advocacy group. She worked with migrants unable to afford legal representation. The only independent observer in court that day, Coiner-Collier says she was stunned by Couch’s callous comments. Jarred and disturbed, she claims to have “ferociously scribbled down” everything the judge said.

“Want me to go get the dog? If you don’t stop talking, I will bring the dog out,” Couch said. “Do you want him to bite you?”

Image by Brian Turner/Flickr. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons. (CCA-BY-2.0)

Couch repeated the threats several times throughout the hearing. A Spanish-language interpreter, who was present and assisting the boy’s mother, translated the judge’s comments.

According to Mother Jones, Couch ‘continued to yell at the boy throughout the hearing,’ raising his voice whenever the child moved or made noise.

After Coiner-Collier wrote the affidavit, she submitted it to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s executive director, Kenneth Schorr.

“I was outraged,” Schorr said. “I’ve been practicing law for over 40 years and I have never experienced judicial conduct this bad.”

It appears that Coiner-Collier’s claims aren’t just hearsay, either. Coiner-Collier says that Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Deepali Nadkarni—Couch’s superior—interviewed her multiple times, asking about the affidavit.

Schorr says he spoke to Nadkarni, who in turn said an internal investigation corroborated Coiner-Collier’s claim.

“Dear Mr. Schorr,” Nadkarni wrote in 2016, “This is in response to your complaint regarding Charlotte Immigration Judge V. Stuart Couch. I investigated the complaint and discussed with Judge Couch his handling of the case. Judge Couch acknowledged he did not handle the situation properly and assured me it will not occur again. Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention. Please don’t hesitate to contact me again fi you have any further questions.”

Schorr, adds Mother Jones, said he doesn’t think Couch should’ve been able to remain on the bench after threatening to set a dog upon a young child. Ironically, Schorr got his wish: Couch left his post, not as punishment, but because he’d been promoted to the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals.

Mother Jones notes that the boy’s mother declined the chance to comment, saying she’s too afraid of Couch to speak up.


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