Immigration Judge Disciplined for Hatch Act Violation

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By on September 17, 2019 in Court Cases with 0 Comments
Judge's gavel on a desk with law book and justice scaled with words 'hatch act'

An immigration judge was recently fined $1,000 and debarred from federal service for 30 months for violating the Hatch Act according to an announcement from the Office of Special Counsel.

Carmene “Zsa Zsa” DePaolo, an immigration judge formerly employed by the Justice Department, incurred the disciplinary actions for violating the Hatch Act from the bench when she promoted then-Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s plan for immigration reform during a deportation hearing over which DePaolo presided in March 2016.

The individual at the immigration hearing was facing deportation and a subsequent ten-year bar on reentry into the United States, which DePaolo called “a pretty harsh thing” that Clinton intended to change, provided “the Senate becomes a Democratic body and there’s some hope that they can actually pass immigration legislation.” 

DePaulo said the Republicans, on the other hand, “aren’t going to do anything” about immigration “if they can help it,” other than to “try to deport everybody.” The hearing was open to the public.

OSC had previously filed a complaint with the Merit Systems Protection Board requesting disciplinary action against DePaolo. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on behalf of the MSPB sided with OSC finding that DePaolo violated the Hatch Act.

In the decision, the ALJ finds DePaolo’s actions merit “a considerable sanction given the public nature of her position.” The $1,000 fine imposed by the decision is the maximum possible civil penalty and also includes a 30-month debarment from federal service since DePaolo has since retired.

According to the ALJ’s decision:

Respondent’s actions raises the specter that this nation’s courtrooms are partisan, and that judges consider political platforms when advising litigants. The very nature of her offense politicizes the judiciary and the federal workforce and militates toward a more severe sanction.…  This conduct sends a bad message to subordinates, and possibly instils the notion that political activity is allowed at work. If a judge can say it from the bench, what stops other employees from making these statements in the office?

OSC Special Counsel Henry Kerner said in a statement, “We are very pleased with the outcome of this case and believe the significant disciplinary action imposed against Judge DePaolo is appropriate and warranted.”

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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