BBA President Chinh Pham of Greenberg Traurig, LLP, issued the following statement today:
The Boston Bar Association is satisfied with the settlement, announced today by the Department of Justice, that will end the misguided effort to prosecute Massachusetts District Court Judge Shelley Joseph, with all criminal charges dropped.
As we said in 2019, in response to her indictment, “In the absence of allegations of corruption or graft, a federal indictment of a state court judge based on her judicial actions is an unprecedented overreach into state authority, and poses a serious threat to the judicial independence that we all depend upon to protect our rights under the law.”
After more than three years, the case appears to be headed back to where it always belonged: The state court system, which has the authority to impose discipline if it finds misconduct by judges or other employees. The BBA’s report on judicial independence, also released in 2019, makes clear that accountability mechanisms are in place in Massachusetts to “assure the public that those who serve as judges are living up to their professional obligations.”
These mechanisms include the Commission on Judicial Conduct, to which the US Attorney’s Office will refer the case, acknowledging that it “is designed to investigate and address alleged misconduct by state judicial officers and to make final recommendations on discipline to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.”
It is unfortunate what Judge Joseph has had to endure all this time, when this matter could have been concluded long ago. We hope this outcome will discourage prosecutors from making a federal case out of what happens in state courtrooms.