While serving as a judge in an immigration courtroom, Judge V. Stuart Couch grew frustrated with a Guatemalan child who was making noise. He told the toddler to be quiet and, when the boy didn’t immediately obey his command, began to threaten the two-year-old, claiming that a dog would “come out and bite” him. Now, Couch is newly promoted.
The threatening incident took place in a Charlotte, North Carolina, immigration courtroom on March 30, 2016, according to a report by Mother Jones. The Guatemalan child, who wasn’t a native English speaker and needed assistance from a translator, wasn’t staying quiet in the courtroom, causing Couch to become angered.
“I have a very big dog in my office, and if you don’t be quiet, he will come out and bite you!” shouted Couch.
“Want me to go get the dog?” he asked. “If you don’t stop talking, I will bring the dog out. Do you want him to bite you?”
Couch reportedly turned off the courtroom cameras when he reprimanded the boy. He also misstated the boy’s age, claiming the child was 5 years old when he was actually a few months shy of his third birthday.
Once the camera was back on, Couch reportedly stated, “I will have the record reflect that [the boy] is a 5-year-old respondent that has been very disruptive during this hearing.”
“The court had tried to control the child behavior’s and has been unsuccessful,” he continued. “The court is using a strong voice and strong language with him in the absence of parental control.”
Kathryn Coiner-Collier, an independent observer who was present that day, said she “ferociously scribbled everything” down that Couch said. Shortly thereafter, she wrote an affidavit, and a complaint to the Justice Department was filed by Kenneth Schorr, the executive director of the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.
Coiner-Collier was reportedly interviewed by Couch’s superior – Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Deepali Nadkarni – on several occasions regarding her affidavit. Nadkarni stated that “Judge Couch acknowledged he did not handle the situation properly and assured me it will not occur again.” Couch was allowed to remain on the bench.
In August of this year, Couch was given a new position. The Trump administration promoted six judges, including Couch, to the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals, which typically has the final say regarding whether an immigrant will be deported.
Between 2013 and 2018, Couch only granted 7.9 percent of the asylum claims he ruled on; the national average is 45 percent.