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Judge accused of blocking ICE arrest tells court she can’t be prosecuted

Massachusetts District Court Judge Shelley Joseph (2nd L) stands beside her lawyer, Thomas Hoopes as he speaks to reporters outside of the federal courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Nate Raymond

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  • Newton District Court Judge Shelley Joseph asks 1st Circuit to dismiss federal charges
  • Joseph was indicted amid Trump administration immigration crackdown

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A Massachusetts judge indicted during the Trump administration for blocking the arrest of an immigrant in her courtroom should be immune from prosecution, her lawyer argued to a federal appeals court on Monday.

Newton District Court Judge Shelley Joseph was charged in 2019 after prosecutors said she obstructed an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent from detaining a previously deported man by helping him leave the courthouse through a rear door. Thomas Hoopes, her lawyer, told a panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston that she was shielded as a sitting judge from prosecution for actions she took within her official capacity.

But prosecutor Donald Lockhart countered the panel lacked jurisdiction to even consider the case against her and a court officer, Wesley MacGregor, until after it proceeds to trial.

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He argued that under longstanding U.S. Supreme Court precedent, they cannot appeal a judge’s decision to not dismiss the indictment against them until a jury has heard the case.

U.S. Circuit Judge William Kayatta called Joseph’s case “unprecedented” and questioned why the doctrine of judicial immunity, which protects judges from civil lawsuits over their official duties, would not extend to her criminal prosecution.

“You want us to be bound by caselaw that has never considered such a case,” he told Lockhart.

Joseph and MacGregor were indictedamid skirmishes between then-President Donald Trump’s administration and local governments including “sanctuary cities” that resisted his immigration crackdown and courthouse arrests by ICE officers.

Defense lawyers argue Joseph is protected from prosecution by judicial immunity and that the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment bars the federal government from forcing states to enforce federal immigration law.

Members of the three-judge panel appeared to be skeptical that immunity would bar all criminal cases, particularly bribery prosecutions, and Lockhart pointed to allegations that Joseph acted with “corrupt” intent.

But Kayatta responded that “this is not a case dealing with what the public would normally think of as corruption,” and U.S. Circuit Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson questioned why Joseph’s alleged actions were enough to establish criminal intent.

U.S. Circuit Judge Sandra Lynch appeared skeptical, though, that the 1st Circuit had jurisdiction to hear those arguments now, saying the defense could raise its judicial immunity claims again post-trial.

The case is U.S. v. Joseph, 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 20-1787.

For the United States: Donald Lockhart of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts

For Joseph: Douglas Brooks and Thomas Hoopes of Libby Hoopes Brooks; and Elizabeth Mulvey of Crowe & Mulvey

For MacGregor: Rosemary Scapicchio of Law Office of Rosemary Scapicchio

Read more:

Massachusetts judge loses bid to dismiss ICE arrest obstruction charges

Massachusetts judge faces federal charges for blocking immigration arrest

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