Carmene DePaolo, an immigration judge based in California has been fined $1,000 and is prevented from working for the federal government for 30 months for violations of the Hatch Act.
The Hatch Act prohibits employees of the federal government from making political statements and performing political activities during work hours. The fine and “debarment” stem from an incident in the spring of 2016 when DePaolo spoke about Hillary Clinton’s future immigration policy during an immigration hearing the judge was presiding over.
Though Clinton was not yet the Democratic Presidential Nominee, DePaolo chose her privileged position as a U.S. Immigration Judge to make her feelings known about the state of immigration policy in this country. The immigrant before her in court was facing deportation and a 10-year ban from re-entering the U.S. She called this punishment “a pretty harsh thing” that Clinton would change (when she was elected President) provided the Senate would become a “Democratic body” and said the only thing Republicans would do if they were elected would be to “try to deport everybody.”
The U.S. Office of the Special Counsel, an independent and investigative prosecutorial agency, filed a complaint accusing the DePaolo of Hatch Act violations. Special Counsel Henry Kerner said at the time, “when a federal immigration judge in a public setting uses her position to advocate for partisan campaign outcomes, that’s a real problem.”
The punishment was announced Monday by law Judge Dean Metry who was overseeing the case. Metry said DePaolo’s conduct “raises the specter that this nation’s courtrooms are partisan and that judges consider platforms when advising litigants.” He went on to say that it sends a bad message when a judge is allowed to make political statements from the bench.
Last year during the grueling and very partisan nomination hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, President Trump referred to “Obama judges” and their partisan decisions. He was roundly critized by both parties including Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts.
In a highly unusual rebuke, Roberts defended the U.S. Justice system saying “we do not have Obama judges or Trump judges or Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.” He went on to say that “an independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”
With all due respect to Justice Roberts, the DePaolo case proves that not all judges are non-partisan and that President Trump was right.
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