Federal Charges Stand Against Massachusetts “Sanctuary Judge"
By David Jaroslav | FAIR Take | July 2020
A federal judge denied Newton District Court Judge Shelley Joseph’s motion to dismiss her case on July 27, bringing her one step closer to a trial on federal criminal charges for trying to protect an illegal alien from deportation.
Judge Joseph and court officer Wesley MacGregor are charged in federal court with obstruction of justice and conspiracy for allegedly letting twice-deported illegal alien Jose Medina-Perez escape out a backdoor of their courthouse. Medina-Perez was in Judge Joseph’s courtroom on state criminal charges when an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent showed up to try to arrest him in April of 2018.
Despite nominating Judge Joseph to the bench, Governor Charlie Baker (R) said she should be removed from office, as “[j]udges are not supposed to be in the business of obstructing justice,” adding, “I find this story, as it’s currently been presented, extremely troubling.”
By contrast, Massachusetts Attorney General (AG) Maury Healey (D) called the case against Joseph a “radical and politically-motivated attack on our state and the independence of our courts.” She said that she was “deeply disappointed by U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s misuse of prosecutorial resources and the chilling effect his actions will have.”
Lelling stressed that his decision to prosecute Joseph was “about the rule of law … this isn’t a policy seminar, it’s a law enforcement action.”
Joseph filed a motion to dismiss her case, claiming that she was protected by both the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and “judicial immunity” for “acts taken in [her] judicial role.” She also claimed she was denied Due Process under the 14h Amendment because the federal obstruction of justice statute didn’t put her sufficiently on notice that her actions could violate it.
Federal Judge Leo Sorokin, a Barack Obama appointee, rejected all of her arguments. He held that even if judges are entitled to protection from lawsuits arising out of their judicial duties that immunity would not apply to shield corruption or bribery. Additionally, Judge Sorkin determined Judge Joseph’s other claims “require the assessment of disputed facts, characterizations of the events underlying the Indictment, or other evidentiary analysis … [s]uch fact-laden determinations are outside the scope of a motion to dismiss.”
A trial date has not yet been set.