On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and American Oversight sued Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the release of records of communication between senior agency officials and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts concerning the prosecution of a Massachusetts state court judge.
Massachusetts Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph and Court Officer Wesley MacGregor are currently facing federal charges for allegedly allowing a criminal defendant to exit using the rear door of the courtroom to evade ICE detention in April 2018.
“For four years, ICE was encouraged to use cruelty and aggression to manifest President Trump’s antipathy to immigrant communities,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “The public needs to understand the recent past so we can ensure it never happens again.”
American Oversight and the ACLU of Massachusetts filed the Freedom of Information Act request at the center of today’s suit in November 2019 following a report by the New York Times in which Thoman Homan, the former acting director of ICE, said that he “immediately began asking about legal recourse” after he was informed of the situation by Matthew Albence, the former executive associate director of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations.
The request seeks all records concerning the incident, including communications between Homan and Albence, and any guidance or directives given to U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, Andrew E. Lelling. More than a year has passed since the filing of this request, and ICE has failed to release any responsive documents. Today’s lawsuit asks a judge to order the agency to process the request as required by law and release any non-exempt records.
“ICE made an unprecedented decision to deploy federal criminal charges against a Massachusetts judge because it disagreed with her ruling from the bench,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “The public has a right to know how this prosecution arose, and whether it was part of a pressure campaign to force Massachusetts court officials to assist in federal immigration enforcement. The federal government cannot use the threat of criminal charges to influence judicial decisions, or to transform our justice system into a cog in ICE’s deportation machine.”
This lawsuit is a part of American Oversight’s ongoing efforts to uncover the full extent of the misconduct and abuse of power that occurred under the Trump administration and to hold those responsible accountable. More information on American Oversight’s investigation into the previous administration’s efforts to undermine sanctuary cities is available here.
For over 100 years, the American Civil Liberties Union has worked every day in the courts, in the legislature, and in communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and laws of the United States. The ACLU of Massachusetts is committed to principles of transparency and accountability in government. More information about the ACLU of Massachusetts is available here.
Today’s complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, is available here.