Massachusetts Judge: No Keeping ICE Out of Courthouses
By David Jaroslav | September 27, 2018
On September 18, Justice Elspeth Cypher of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), the Bay State’s highest court, ruled against eight illegal aliens and three organizations who had sought to keep Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from making arrests in the state’s courthouses.
On March 15, two of the illegal aliens, using the pseudonyms “C. Doe,” “D. Doe,” etc., rather than their real names, had filed a petition with the court, asking for an order (“writ of protection”) to all the lower courts in the state to essentially bar ICE from the courthouse door. Within two weeks they were joined by the Massachusetts Legal Aid Organization, the Victim Rights Law Center, and the Boston Bar Association, technically as amici curiae (“friends of the court”) rather than actual parties to the petition.
In April, Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett (D) submitted a letter supporting the petition, and in May another such letter was sent from Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan (D). Blodgett’s letter contradicted itself, saying “in no way does this office seek to interfere with the mandate of federal law enforcement. I only ask that removal proceedings commence subsequent to pending criminal prosecutions[.]”
Neither ICE nor any other federal agency was sued or otherwise provided an opportunity to argue against the petition, making it an ex parte (one-sided) proceeding.
In her order denying the petition, Justice Cypher said that while she may have sympathized with some of the illegal aliens’ arguments, she could not grant what they were asking for. “The petition seeks a single, unprecedented, and exceedingly broad remedy — a writ of protection covering all undocumented immigrants and others who are subject to possible immigration consequences, for all of their current and future business in the Massachusetts courts, based on an ex parte record. For the reasons stated, I decline to report this matter to the full court as requested, and I decline to issue the writ. The full court would be in no better position than I am to issue such a broad and impractical writ in these circumstances.”
ICE has not publicly commented about this particular case, but has explained repeatedly why they sometimes resort to courthouse arrests, particularly in sanctuary jurisdictions like Massachusetts. The agency’s January 10 directive on the subject notes that “[i]ndividuals entering courthouses are typically screened by law enforcement personnel to search for weapons and other contraband. Accordingly, civil immigration enforcement actions taken inside courthouses can reduce safety risks to the public, targeted alien(s), and ICE officers and agents. … And, courthouse arrests are often necessitated by the unwillingness of jurisdictions to cooperate with ICE in the transfer of custody of aliens from their prisons and jails.”
Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, which represented six of the eight illegal aliens, responded with typically hyperbolic open-borders rhetoric to Justice Cypher’s ruling, saying that “countless immigrants in Massachusetts and across the country — remain open to unfettered intimidation, harassment, and detention by federal immigration officials. The courthouse doors remain effectively closed to immigrants[.]”
The illegal aliens may still appeal Cypher’s order to the full court. They have thirty days in which to do so, giving them a deadline of October 18. But there’s a good chance they won’t appeal, as the full court “will not reverse an order of a single justice in the absence of an abuse of discretion or clear error of law.”