Fair Courts E-Lert: Retired Judges Urge ICE to Stop Immigration Arrests at Courthouses

December 14, 2018


Brennan Center for Justice Fair Courts


law and justice


Retired Judges Urge ICE to Stop Immigration Arrests at Courthouses

On Wednesday, a group of nearly 70 former state and federal judges from 23 states called on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stop making civil immigration arrests at state and local courthouses.

In a letter to ICE’s acting director, Ronald Vitiello, the judges cited incidents of courthouse arrests in at least 23 states, noting, “there has been a dramatic increase in ICE presence in courthouses over the last two years.” These arrests, the judges wrote, “instill[] fear in clients and deter[] them from seeking justice in a court building.” Data from multiple cities has shown a “disproportionate decrease in the number of domestic violence complaints from Latino communities in 2017.” And affidavits, the judges wrote, “detail persons ‘terrified’ to request orders protecting themselves from violence or enforcing child support, to serve as witnesses, and to defend themselves.”

“For courts to effectively do justice, ensure public safety, and serve their communities, the public must be able to access courthouses safely and without fear of retribution,” the judges wrote.

The letter asks Vitiello to add courthouses to ICE’s list of “sensitive locations,” which includes schools, hospitals, places of worship and religious ceremonies, and public demonstrations, where immigration enforcement officers are prohibited from making arrests except in “exigent circumstances,” such as risks of violence and national security measures.




Florida and Michigan Supreme Courts Will Not Have a Black Justice for First Time In Over 30 Years

As of January, changes in supreme court membership will leave Michigan and Florida without a single black justice on their high courts for the first time in over 30 years.

In November, Democratic nominee Megan Cavanagh unseated incumbent Republican Justice Kurtis Wilder, the only black justice on the Michigan Supreme Court. According to the Detroit News, African-Americans “comprise 14 percent of Michigan’s population and make up 83 percent of the state’s largest city,” Detroit. The end of Wilder’s term will mark the first time in 33 years that the Michigan Supreme Court will not have a black justice.

In Florida, Justice Peggy Quince, the only black justice on the state’s high court, is subject to mandatory retirement. A list of 11 replacements recommended by the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission to Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis had no black nominees. The end of Quince’s term will mark the first time in 36 years that the Florida Supreme Court will not have a black justice. On Wednesday, Florida Senate and House Democrats called on DeSantis to expand the list of candidates, citing an “appalling lack of diversity” and asking him to rectify “this stark imbalance.” Lawmakers have also proposed reducing the governor’s role in the judicial nominations process and bringing in more perspectives.


Kansas Gov.-Elect Laura Kelly to Restore Nominating Commission’s Role in Appeals Court Selection

Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly plans to change the way state appellate court judges are selected, returning to a merit-based selection system.

In 2013, then-governor Sam Brownback changed the merit-based selection process for the Court of Appeals to allow the governor to make judicial appointments directly, subject to Senate confirmation. An effort to similarly change selection for the Kansas Supreme Court “was unsuccessful because that requires a constitutional amendment,” according to U.S. News.

According to U.S. News, for an upcoming January vacancy on the Kansas Court of Appeals, Kelly will “have a nonpartisan nominating committee filter applications for the court and forward three applicants to her” to select from.

“In an effort to increase transparency, we will use a merit-based selection process similar to that used by the Kansas Supreme Court… I believe the people of Kansas deserve to observe this process and know that we are choosing a highly-qualified person to serve in this important judicial position.” Kelly said of her intended change.

GOP Attorney Seeks to Remove Three Members of Iowa Judicial Nominating Commission; Commission Says Members Will Serve Until Successors Appointed

On Thursday, the 17-member Iowa State Judicial Nominating Commission announced it will begin accepting applications for a vacancy on the Iowa Supreme Court – despite a challenge by Iowa attorney and Republican Party treasurer Bill Gustoff seeking to remove three members of the commission.

Gustoff’s challenge seeks to “sideline the panel’s three most experienced attorneys from the deliberations to recommend replacements for outgoing Supreme Court Justice Daryl Hecht and Court of Appeals Chief Judge David Danilson.” At issue is when the commission terms of the three challenged members are due to end.

Longstanding state law provides that commission members serve six-year terms beginning on July 1 after elections are held in January. The Iowa Judicial Branch has also held that the terms expire June 30, 2019. But Gustoff argues the members’ terms expire January 1, under a 2008 law.

According to the AP, if successful, the challenge would shift the commission’s balance of power to the eight Republican members appointed by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) and her predecessor.

On Thursday, after receiving a letter of legal guidance from the Office of the Attorney General of Iowa, the Iowa Judicial Branch said the three commissioners would work to fill the vacancy and hold their offices “until their successors are appointed.”