New Jersey Chief Justice Letter Regarding Immigration Arrests in New Jersey Courts

Alexander J. Segal's picture

On April 19, 2017, New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner submitted a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) objecting to the immigration arrest of two individuals as they were making required appearances in New Jersey Court for criminal proceedings. You may read the full letter here (courtesy of [link and see source]) [PDF version]. In his letter, Judge Rabner objected on the basis that “[a] true system of justice must have the public's confidence,” and that immigration enforcement activities in courthouses hurt this objective. Judge Rabner stated that he shared the DHS's concern for the rule of law, but he asked that it “find a thoughtful path to further that aim in a way that does not compromise our system of justice.”

A spokesman for the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stated that the ICE only arrests targets at courthouses after all other options have been exhausted. He added that tracking criminal aliens is resource intensive, and that in certain cases courthouses provide “the most likely opportunity” to locate a target and take him or her into custody”. Furthermore, he added that courthouse arrests are safer for agents because courthouses have metal detectors and other screening processes.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sided with the DHS, but he went further by taking the position that it was inappropriate for Judge Rabner to have become involved in the issue.

We wrote about a similar dispute between the Chief Justice of California and the DHS and Department of Justice a couple of months ago [see blog].

One difference between the situation in California and the situation in New Jersey is that more jurisdictions in New Jersey are cooperative with the ICE, something that was in fact noted by Judge Rabner. Arresting criminal aliens is ICE's prerogative and an important job for ensuring public safety. Likewise, the ICE should, to the maximum extent practicable, seek to make arrests in ways that will not have collateral consequences.


Sullivan, S.P. “N.J.'s chief justice asks ICE to stop arresting immigrants at courthouses.” (Apr. 20, 2017).

New Jersey Chief Justice Letter Regarding Immigration Arrests in New Jersey Courts