Appellate Court Rules Lawsuit Challenging Houston’s Illegal Alien Sanctuary Policy Will Continue
SEPTEMBER 13, 2011
Appellate Court Reverses Decision by District Court Dismissing Judicial Watch Lawsuit Filed by Houston Police Sgt. Joslyn Johnson, Widow of Police Officer Murdered by Illegal Alien
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(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has ruled in favor of Judicial Watch client Houston police sergeant Joslyn M. Johnson, the widow of a fellow police officer murdered by an illegal alien. The three-judge panel reversed a decision by the district court. Sgt. Johnson’s lawsuit against the City of Houston’s illegal sanctuary policy will now continue (Johnson v. City of Houston (No. 10-207343)).As noted by the appellate court, under The Houston Police Department’s (HPD) illegal alien sanctuary policy “HPD officers are forbidden from notifying federal authorities that they have encountered a known illegal alien unless they arrest that person on a ‘separate criminal charge (other than a class C misdemeanor).’” Moreover, Houston’s sanctuary policy also prevents police officers from obtaining immigration information from a number of federal government databases. (The policy only allows police officers to check the “wanted” status of an illegal alien from a single federal database that tracks illegal aliens who have been convicted and deported for “drug trafficking, firearms trafficking, or serious violent crimes.”)
The lawsuit filed on September 21, 2009, claims that Houston’s sanctuary policies harm Sergeant Johnson’s ability to communicate with federal immigration officials.Officer Johnson “does not seek to detain or arrest persons in order to inquire about their immigration status,” Judicial Watch noted in its original complaint. “Rather plaintiff [Johnson] seeks to use her professional judgment to determine when it is appropriate to contact ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to inquire or provide information about a person’s immigration status if, in the course of carrying out her duties and responsibilities as a law enforcement officer, she has reason to believe a crime may have been committed.”The district court dismissed this lawsuit, ruling that Sgt. Johnson was precluded from bringing the lawsuit because the court had previously dismissed a separate lawsuit over the death of her husband. The appellate court reversed this decision, ruling that the lower court had incorrectly determined that Sgt. Johnson’s lawsuit was essentially “duplicative” of her previous lawsuit and had therefore already been adjudicated.“This is a tremendous victory for Judicial Watch’s client Sgt. Joslyn Johnson, who will finally get her day in court,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The City of Houston demonstrates the horrible harm that is caused by illegal alien sanctuary policies. We look forward to the opportunity to try to end Houston’s lawless sanctuary policies that place law enforcement officers and the citizens of Houston at risk.”On September 21, 2006, Sgt. Johnson’s husband, Officer Rodney Johnson, was making a routine traffic stop when he was shot and killed by Juan Leonardo Quintero-Perez, a previously deported Mexican national who had reentered and was living in the U.S. illegally. After reentering the U.S. illegally, Quintero-Perez had multiple interactions with the HPD before shooting and killing Officer Johnson, including at least one arrest for driving under the influence and citations for failing to stop and give information following an accident and driving with a suspended license.