Tensions mounting between state and federal officials concerning the recent changes in the enforcement of long-standing laws concerning illegal immigration came to a head recently in the courtroom of one judge in Portland, OR. The judge, Monica Herranz was not, in fact, hearing a case tied to deportation but she took an extreme measure to interfere with the apprehension of an illegal immigrant who was in criminal court.
Judge Herranz was presiding over the drunk driving case of Diddier Pacheco Salazar. Mr. Salazar was arrested on January 1, 2017, on charges of reckless driving and driving under the influence. He plead innocent on January 3, 2017, but then entered a guilty plea later. The plea came as a part of an agreement that would allow Mr. Salazar a deferred sentence and to be enrolled in a diversion program.
Mr. Salazar’s case was complicated by the fact that he was born in Mexico and not in the country by legal means. Essentially the drunk driving charges were not the only legal matter, but Judge Herranz ignored the fact that Mr. Salazar was illegally in the country. Not only did Judge Herranz overlook the issue with legal residency, she used her place on the bench to aid Mr. Salazar in attempting to flee from ICE agents ready to apprehend him.
While Mr. Salazar’s attorney John Slosser advised his client that there may be issues with ICE after his court date, Judge Herranz took it upon herself to allow the defendant to use an exit reserved for court employees. The man, who just plead guilty to a crime, was given access to secure parts of the courthouse not on official business but to avoid law enforcement. Judge Herranz essentially stepped in to aid in the escape of Mr. Salazar.
In courtrooms across the country, judges every day are expected to be fair and unbiased. A judge that misuses her position and access to secure parts of a courthouse to support criminal activities is not unbiased. Assisting in the escape efforts of a criminal defendant facing action by law enforcement is not a sanctioned action of the court. We can not expect a judge to be able to perform the duties of the court if they are not able to act in a professional manner.
Judge Herranz is a graduate of the University of Oregon School of Law, so one would hope she would have an understanding of her role as a tool of the legal system. Judge Herranz is also on the Board of Directors of the Oregon Hispanic Bar Association. It does not seem coincidental that both Judge Herranz and Mr. Salazar are both Hispanic. It seems that Judge Herranz was not able to act in the best interest of the court based on her own ties to the Hispanic community.
Mr. Salazar, to be clear, was not an innocent party targeted by ICE unfairly. He was an illegal immigrant with a criminal record who came onto their radar. The state of Oregon and specifically Portland officials have been outspoken about efforts to remain a sanctuary city and not to support the efforts of ICE agents.
The line between the role of the court to uphold the law and law enforcement was violated by the efforts of Judge Herranz. Judge Nan C. Waller, who has been a seated Multnomah County Judge since January 2012, was called to meet with other Multnomah County and state officials to address this issue. The U.S Attorney in the district of Oregon, Billy Williams, was also a part of this process.
Judge Waller confirmed that the members of the staff of the Multnomah County Courthouse were told they were to not assist the efforts of ICE agents and they were not allowed to give them information that was not publicly available. The idea that the courthouse staff was not willing to give the ICE agents help beyond what was available to the public seems unethical as it was obvious that Judge Herranz, in fact, gave a member of the public special access to unauthorized sections of the courthouse. It logically does not make sense that they can block the actions of the ICE agents by this type of extreme measure. If an ICE agent would not be allowed access to secure information or judge only sections of the courthouse building, is it ethical to allow a criminal defendant who has just entered a guilty plea access?
As this story first broke, it seemed as if many members of the courthouse staff were not willing to even admit the judge had knowingly done anything wrong. The simple fact, according to Billy Williams, was that the staff were aware that there were 4 ICE agents waiting for Mr. Salazar outside of the only exit to the courtroom that was legally open to him. The actions of Judge Herranz did interfere with the actions of the ICE agents.
“Obviously, someone let him out knowing ICE was there because there was a courtroom staffer who had originally saw the agents in the hallway before the proceedings started who made the comment something to the effect, ‘You guys are evil,'” Williams said. “So, it was clear that someone associated with the court knew they were there.”
Williams went on to describe the actions of Judge Herranz as being unprofessional although at this time the state was not pursuing any criminal charges or state bar actions against Herranz. It seems in the State of Oregon a judge is above the law, even if it means they act in a way that is unprofessional. Williams went on to say that the act of assisting the near escape of Mr. Salazar “…was inappropriate and delegitimizes the work of ICE agents who are out there doing their jobs.”
Even with the unprofessional and inappropriate actions of Judge Herranz, the diligent work of the local ICE agents in Portland, OR paid off as Mr. Salazar was in fact apprehended. He is at this time being held in a detention center in Tacoma, WA.