A federal judge who was suspended without pay and charged with obstruction after allegedly helping an illegal alien accused of a crime escape from Immigration and Customs Enforcement has had her legal bills footed by taxpayers, according to a new report.
Newtown District Court Judge Shelley Richmond Joseph, 51, was arraigned on an obstruction of justice charge and other charges on April 25 at the federal courthouse in Boston. She pleaded not guilty.
The $127,000 in legal fees that Joseph accrued until she was indicted on federal obstruction charges was paid for by taxpayers, reported the Boston Herald.
The reason taxpayers had to pay for Joseph’s fees is not entirely clear.
“The state’s Trial Court administration refused to give the Herald a breakdown of the legal fees—how much was paid to what lawyers for what services, and when. A spokeswoman also said there is no set policy on what circumstances will result in court employees being granted tax-paid legal representation,” the Herald reported.
“The court addresses any request for the payment of legal fees based on the particular circumstances. There is no written Trial Court policy,” spokeswoman Erika Gully-Santiago said in a statement.
Wesley MacGregor, 56, was also charged in the case for his alleged role in helping the alien evade detention. Taxpayers have paid $2,500 for his legal fees.
The payments stopped once indictments were handed down.
David Tuerck, executive director of the Beacon Hill Institute, told the Herald that taxpayers providing the money for the legal fees was “simply outrageous … especially in this case given the egregious nature of her apparent offense.”
Alan Fanger started a GoFundMe for Joseph, writing on the page: “The funds are needed immediately in order to secure the services of counsel. Please ensure that justice is done.”
The fundraiser has garnered over $60,000 in a month.
Joseph was earning $181,000 a year before her suspension.
Her attorneys filed a motion in late May trying to get their client’s pay restored as the case winds through the court.
The judge’s representatives claim that the suspension without pay does not have precedent and penalizes the judge despite her being innocent until proven guilty.
“Unproven and unfounded charges by the federal government do not compel this unprecedented and serious sanction, or the lack of fair process that attended its imposition,” attorneys stated in the motion, which was obtained by Mass Live. “The order runs counter to the presumption of innocence to which Judge Joseph is entitled.”
According to an affidavit obtained by the Boston Globe, Joseph has two daughters in college and is the financial provider for her mother, whose husband died in 2017. She and her husband, a real estate attorney, have reportedly struggled financially with the pay suspension to the point that they’ve mulled selling their house.
“Prior to the indictment, my family was able to meet its financial expenses, but with very little room for error,” Joseph wrote in the affidavit. “Since my suspension without pay, our family income has decreased by more than half, because I had been earning more than my husband.”
Apart from “retirement funds,” the family has no savings, Joseph added. Her lawyers, who work at Foley Hoag, took the case pro bono, according to the motion.