California Chief Justice Urges Sessions and Kelly to Stop Stalking Immigrants

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye sent a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on March 16, urging federal authorities to stop “stalking” undocumented immigrants at state courthouses.

Here is the letter:

Dear Attorney General Sessions and Secretary Kelly:

As Chief Justice of California responsible for the safe and fair delivery of justice in our state, I am deeply concerned about reports from some of our trial courts that immigration agents appear to be stalking undocumented immigrants in our courthouses to make arrests.

Our courthouses serve as a vital forum for ensuring access to justice and protecting public safety. Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws.

Our courts are the main point of contact for millions of the most vulnerable Californians in times of anxiety, stress, and crises in their lives. Crime victims, victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, witnesses to crimes who are aiding law enforcement, limited-English speakers, unrepresented litigants, and children and families all come to our courts seeking justice and due process of law. As finders of fact, trial courts strive to mitigate fear to ensure fairness and protect legal rights. Our work is critical for ensuring public safety and the efficient administration of justice.

Most Americans have more daily contact with their state and local governments than with the federal government, and I am concerned about the impact on public trust and confidence in our state court system if the public feels that our state institutions are being used to facilitate other goals and objectives, no matter how expedient they may be.

Each layer of government – federal, state, and local – provides a portion of the fabric of our society that preserves law and order and protects the rights and freedoms of the people. The separation of powers and checks and balances at the various levels and branches of government ensure the harmonious existence of the rule of law.

The federal and state governments share power in countless ways, and our roles and responsibilities are balanced for the public good. As officers of the court, we judges uphold the constitutions of both the United States and California, and the executive branch does the same by ensuring that our laws are fairly and safely enforced. But enforcement policies that include stalking courthouses and arresting undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom pose no risk to public safety, are neither safe nor fair. They not only compromise our core value of fairness but they undermine the judiciary’s ability to provide equal access to justice. I respectfully request that you refrain from this sort of enforcement in California’s courthouses.

—Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye Recorder:

Per The Reporter, Justice Cantil-Sakauye continued her criticism of the Trump administration on Monday, telling state lawmakers in an annual address that:

… “the rule of law is being threatened.” While not referring to Donald Trump by name, the Chief Justice used her State of the Judiciary remarks to raise concern about “eroding trust in our institutions” and civil rights “unrest.”

“Our values, practices, and laws are being called into question, and all three branches of government and the free press are in the crosshairs,” Cantil-Sakauye said in prepared remarks that were made available before her speech to a joint session of the state Legislature. “And during uncertain and turbulent times, it is respect for—and reliance on—the rule of law that protects us.”

The rule of law, Cantil-Sakauye said in the prepared speech, “means that as a people, we are governed by laws, not by a monarch.”

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