San Francisco Immigration judge, subject of complaint by lawyers, retires

FILE - Generic gavel on wooden table.

A San Francisco Immigration Court judge who was the subject of a complaint to the U.S. Justice Department involving hostile and biased treatment of immigrants abruptly quit his post this week.

In a letter announcing his retirement, Judge Nicholas Ford did not acknowledge the complaint by local attorneys representing immigrants.

Instead, he criticized the entire court system and called its managers "a fearful community whose primary interest has never been the growth of those they oversee but rather their own continued employment."

"I am an older judge and it is hard to understand how any court system can function like this," he added.

Ford was a criminal court judge in Cook County, Illinois, before being named to the immigration court bench in 2019 by then-Attorney General William Barr. During his tenure in Chicago, he was criticized for jailing a pregnant woman without bail for a nonviolent crime and had a high number of rulings overturned by appellate courts, according to Injustice Watch, a justice watchdog group.

Last November. a coalition led by the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Lawyers Guild called for his removal from the bench, alleging in a complaint that Ford acted in an "aggressive, unprofessional and demeaning" manner toward immigrants.

The guild said the Justice Department closed its investigation into Ford last month without disclosing whether any disciplinary action was taken.

Ford and the Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment.

The guild said in a statement Saturday that it believes the public pressure for Ford to be removed from the bench had an impact.