News Releases
March 30, 2018

BBA Supports Full-Bench Review of Petition for Court to Ban ICE Arrests in Courthouses

Press Release

Today, the Boston Bar Association (BBA) sent a letter to Justice Elspeth B. Cypher of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), requesting a full-bench review of a petition asking the Court to ban U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials from making civil arrests in and around Massachusetts courthouses.

On March 15, the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice filed the petition In the Matter of C. Doe & Others (SJ-2018-0119), in response to the increasing reports of ICE arrests of individuals at, or traveling to and from, court for official matters. The Petitioners, a juvenile defendant with a crucial noncitizen witness and seven noncitizen individuals who are afraid to attend court, ask for the matter to be reserved and reported to the full bench of the SJC in order to obtain a writ of protection from civil arrest (including by federal immigration agents) for all those similarly situated.

The BBA letter, though not yet weighing in on the arguments of the case at this point, highlights the fundamental concerns implicated and supports the Petitioners’ request that Justice Cypher, as the Single Justice assigned to the case, reserve and report it for full bench review.

“For the past year, the BBA has been monitoring, with increasing concern, reports that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), acting through ICE, is using courthouses in the Commonwealth to effect civil immigration arrests,” the letter reads. “Such actions by ICE may significantly impair the ability of the Commonwealth to ensure access to our courts and fair administration of justice for all our residents.”

As an association of attorneys, facilitating access to justice and ensuring the fair administration of justice is a core element of the BBA’s mission. For decades, we have advocated for these principles, producing reports that make the case for increasing the availability of legal assistance for unrepresented parties and, each year, calling for adequate funding for the judiciary, in recognition that the health of the Commonwealth depends on a well-functioning, fair, and accessible court system.

“Given the BBA’s long tradition of working to expand and protect access to justice and the fair administration of justice, and the gravity of the issues at hand here, we believe it is important for this petition be reserved and reported to the full SJC bench,” BBA President Mark Smith said.

To learn more about this matter and the BBA’s statement, please click here.