Perverting the Course of Justice in Brooklyn

By Dan Cadman on April 27, 2017

Anyone who watches British police procedurals on television is probably aware of the phrase "perverting the course of justice". It is a charge levied against individuals, often police or others in officialdom, who rig the system to arrive at a result contrary to what any reasonable person would expect from the criminal justice system.

I thought of that phrase recently, when I blogged about an American prosecutor and judge who did figurative backflips so a serially wife-abusing alien defendant could plea to a charge that would not result in his being subjected to deportation proceedings.

As repugnant as that situation was, it involved only a single case.

Now we have evidence of a whole system bending and twisting to try and help alien defendants "avoid disproportionate collateral consequences, such as deportation" through plea bargain agreements using immigration attorneys as middlemen and brokers between prosecutors and defending attorneys. This is taking place in King's County, N.Y., (commonly known as the borough of Brooklyn in New York City), and has just become the declared policy of the Acting District Attorney there, Eric Gonzalez.

It is an incredible attempt to undermine the entire system of immigration control, which appropriately assigns consequences in the form of removability to aliens who violate America's system of criminal laws. Who is the King's County district attorney to determine what is "disproportionate" in that regard? That's the job of Congress.

Note, also, that although Mr. Gonzalez says the policy will be undertaken in a way that "maintain[s] public safety", in fact the press release announcing the new guidelines says it will apply to "misdemeanor and other low-level offenses." (Emphasis added.) This subtly tells the reader that the policy will apply to felony offenses as well as misdemeanors, provided simply that the felony meets someone's idea of a "low-level offense". Who gets to make that call? How far will that rubber band stretch?

I wonder how victims, for example abused spuouses such as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, will react to this new policy. Did they have any say-so in its construction? Will they have any say-so in the cozy official new method of wheeling-and-dealing to arrange plea bargains with alien defendants, or have victims' rights just been diluted to the point of nonexistence where alien defendants are concerned?

I also find myself pondering the one-sided disproportionality of the policy. How about citizen defendants, for instance, who are the primary breadwinners or caregivers in a family, facing a jail sentence that will almost certainly disrupt the equilibrium and well-being of the other members of the family? I don't see any give there. My guess is that Gonzalez would likely say in that instance, "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." Funny how one's citizenship makes a difference in how we are treated by the criminal justice system in some jurisdictions — but, as often as not, it isn't how people think, and the bias and double standards accrue to the benefit of aliens, not citizens. If this is an example of how Justice is blind, then she must also be deaf and mute.

One last thought: Lately it has become all the rage for federal jurists at the district and appellate court levels to deconstruct the words of our president (both in office and on the campaign trail prior to election), as well as his cabinet officers, in rendering their rulings on various executive orders. In all of the to-do about sanctuary jurisdictions, how is it that they aren't doing to same to assess the words and actions of state and local officials to determine whether their complaints are really about the Tenth Amendment or "commandeering" of resources, or whether that isn't just a smokescreen to obfuscate their attempts to nullify federal law to accord more with their own notions of immigration control (while keeping their hands on those millions of federal grant dollars)?

Those jurists are teetering on the edge of ceding de facto control over federal immigration policy to a disjointed series of policies that will cross, overlap, and conflict among and between the 50 states, the territories, and the District of Columbia, plus the tens of thousands of counties and cities around the country.

This is exactly why the Articles of Confederation were a failure, and our founders jettisoned them in favor of the present constitutional system in which national sovereignty — which includes control over immigration — is one of the few areas in which states and their political subdivisions must bow to federal preeminence. Failure to recognize that key lesson of American history can lead to no good whatsoever.