Sunday, November 17, 2019

Judge prosecuted for noncooperation with ICE [UPDATED 11/20/2019]

Judge Shelley Joseph, who is charged with obstruction of justice and accused of helping an undocumented immigrant escape detention, has declined a plea deal and signaled she will risk a trial

In April, she and a court officer, Wesley MacGregor, were accused of allowing an immigrant to evade detention by arranging for him to sneak out the back door of a courthouse. Massachusetts has been at the forefront of the sanctuary city movement, its courts passing a series of legal rulings that constrain Immigration and Customs Enforcement from detaining immigrants in courthouses.

The federal prosecutor in Boston took the unusual step of charging the judge with obstruction of justice, setting off a debate over whether and how states can refrain from carrying out President Trump’s immigration policy. The move has stirred division. Her supporters feel that, even if she behaved inappropriately, a judicial sanction is more appropriate than federal prosecution, which they warn will open the door for prosecution of other judges, undercutting their independence. They claim the prosecution is politically-motivated.

Her critics  say it is inapproriate to to defy ICE requests: “Massachusetts courts blatantly and willfully disregard ICE’s requests to detain aliens on a daily basis, and cannot be relied upon to honor our requests,” an official in ICE’s Boston field office complained in internal emails. United States Attorney Andrew Lelling, who filed the charges, said that the Massachusetts office would be taking tougher stance on immigration: “Some of our judges are motivated by their personal conclusions that it’s unfair in certain instances to deport someone,” he told The Boston Globe. “That’s not law, just their personal feelings.” 


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What law or rule says that anyone has to leave a courthouse by any particular door? Judges make exceptions to rules for litigants all the time for absurd reasons or no reasons. Since when does a state judge, or anyone anywhere, have to assist federal law enforcement in doing their jobs? And even if this conduct were "inappropriate," since when is that the standard for criminal prosecution? How about charging those who threaten witnesses and order others to defy lawful process?

Posted by: Vanessa Merton | Nov 17, 2019 4:20:12 PM

ps: She is a municipal-level state judge, not an Immigration Court Judge. Even if EOIR employees have a legal duty under their employment contract or oath of office to assist ICE in arresting a litigant -- which I doubt -- the consequence of refusal then ought to be employee discipline or losing the job, not criminal prosecution.

Posted by: | Nov 17, 2019 4:31:33 PM

And this is not assisting a fugitive criminal; immigration proceedings are civil, as we are so often reminded by the absence of appointed counsel and therefore any counsel.

Posted by: Vanessa Merton | Nov 18, 2019 6:03:33 AM

Thanks for clarifying that she is a state judge, not EOIR. Correction made 11/20/2019

Posted by: MHC | Nov 20, 2019 7:49:19 AM

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