A New Lawyer’s Guide to Master Calendar Hearings

Immigration master calendar hearings are short and quick hearings held before an Immigration Judge. A lawyer who effectively maneuvers her way through master calendar hearings is better prepared to successfully navigate a client’s case through the unseen bureaucratic and legal hurdles of immigration removal proceedings.

A foreign national is placed into immigration removal proceedings by the lodging of a notice to appear by the Department of Homeland Security with the immigration court.  A copy of the notice must be served on the foreign national. Once the Immigration Court receives the notice to appear, the court’s clerk then issues a hearing notice to the foreign national, informing her of the hearing date, the time, and the location. This hearing is called the master calendar hearing.

What happens at a master calendar hearing?

You and your client will be among several others present in the courtroom on this day.  Unless your client is detained and has had a bond hearing, the master calendar hearing is your client’s first appearance in front of an immigration judge.  Some judges allow members of the private bar to sign-up and are called in order. Some judges call the cases from the general docket list.  In either event, this should not affect how you represent your client at this hearing.

The judge’s clerk will call the client’s name or the last three digits of her Alien Number.  The Judge may introduce the attorneys or may ask that attorneys from both sides introduce themselves.  The Judge will then ask the client to state her name and will inquire whether private counsel is authorized to speak on her behalf.

The purpose of the master calendar hearing is to allow you, the attorney, to enter your notice of appearance.  This hearing also allows you to notify the court of your client’s address or a change of address. As your client’s counsel, you will be required to do the following at the master calendar hearing:

  • identify the language of your client
  • admit or deny the allegations contained in the notice to appear
  • deny or concede the charge of removability or inadmissibility
  • state with clarity the form of relief that your client will be seeking
  • state with clarity and precision the basis of your client’s eligibility for such relief
  • inform the court of the amount of time needed to present your client’s case
  • request a continuance for attorney preparation if not prepared to do any of the actions above

How do I prepare for a master calendar hearing?

In preparing for a master calendar hearing, be sure to review Section 240(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.  Inform the client of what her rights are in immigration removal proceedings.  Attorneys should be ready to proceed when their client’s case is called.  Speak loudly and with confidence.  I advise attorneys to read the immigration court practice manual for familiarity of the courtroom procedures.  Print a copy of the oral pleadings and review them at your office.  Make specific notations regarding any denial of allegations and the basis of your denial.  Indicate your client’s relief from removal and state the basis of their eligibility. Use your copy of the oral pleadings, if you choose not to submit written pleadings, when pleading to the charges in the notice.

Disclaimer:  Information contained in this blog should not be construed as legal advice.

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