BOSTON — A sitting Massachusetts judge facing federal obstruction charges for allegedly helping an undocumented immigrant evade ICE is seeking the reinstatement of her salary during her ongoing suspension from the bench.
Attorneys for District Judge Shelley Joseph on Thursday asked the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to reconsider her suspension without pay, calling it “without precedent” to impose the penalty before the court or another administrative body has determined a wrongful act.
Joseph, a state judge in Newton, outside Boston, was indicted April 25 by the Justice Department for allegedly preventing federal immigration agents last year from arresting an undocumented immigrant. A court officer, Wesley MacGregor, was also charged.
Prosecutors say that Joseph and MacGregor allowed Jose Medina-Perez, Dominican national, detained on drug and outstanding warrant charges, to leave the courthouse from a downstairs back door after the judge instructed an immigration agent to wait in the hallway outside her courtroom. Medina-Perez has been deported twice before in 2007 and 2003 and had been barred from reentering the country until 2027.
Joseph has been charged with one count of obstruction of justice, and two counts of aiding and abetting to obstruct justice, carrying a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. MacGregor, who retired in March from his court duties, faces the same charges, plus a perjury count. Both have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The Supreme Judicial Court, which handles discipline for state judges, responded the same day as the indictment by suspending Joseph without pay, saying it was not based on opinions about the case but “solely on the fact that a sitting judge has been indicted for alleged misconduct in the performance of her judicial duties.”
Joseph, who has pleaded not guilty to charges, has an annual salary of $181,328.
In a motion to reconsider filed Thursday, first reported by the Boston Globe, her attorneys Michael Keating and David Kluft ask that Joseph’s suspension be with pay. They argue withholding her salary runs counter to the presumption of Joseph’s innocence and undermines the court’s stated position about not offering an opinion on the case.
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They also said her suspended pay has presented a “financial dilemma,” forcing Joseph to borrow “significant sums of money from family and friends to meet her expenses.”
The motion says that Joseph has also lost the state’s contributions to her health and pension benefits and as a judicial officer, she is extremely limited in the types of alternative or temporary employment she may pursue.”
“She may soon be forced to choose between keeping her family home and mounting a robust defense to the criminal indictment,” the motion reads.
The high-profile indictment of Joseph came amidst a standoff between President Donald Trump, who has overseen a strict enforcement of immigrant policy, and U.S. communities that have objected to providing the federal government information on residents’ immigration status.
Attorneys for both defendants appeared in federal court Thursday for a procedural status conference hearing Thursday. Magistrate Judge Donald Cabell gave a two-month deadline for motions from the two sides as the case heads toward trial. The next court hearing has been set for July 25.
Joseph was not present but MacGregor sat among friends, family and other supporters from the gallery.
The U.S. Attorney in Boston prosecuting the case, Andrew Lelling, has said the case is “about the rule of law,” not immigration. But an attorney for Joseph has called the indictment “absolutely political.”
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