Hillary Clinton campaigns for president in 2016. The immigration judge is being punished for praising Clinton's immigration plan while on the job.

Hillary Clinton campaigns for president in 2016. The immigration judge is being punished for praising Clinton's immigration plan while on the job. Andrew Harnik/AP file photo

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Former Immigration Judge Punished for Hatch Act Violations

Merit Systems Protection Board imposes a $1,000 fine and 30-month debarment from federal service.

The quasi-judicial Merit Systems Protection Board has “imposed significant disciplinary action” on a federal immigration judge who violated the Hatch Act, the Office of Special Counsel announced on Tuesday. 

Carmene “Zsa Zsa" DePaolo, an immigration judge for the Justice Department who retired before the ruling, was fined $1,000 and debarred from federal service for 30 months. In June 2018, OSC, an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency, filed the complaint with MSPB due to DePaolo speaking favorably of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s plan for immigration reform during a deportation hearing in 2016. 

During a hearing in March 2016 an individual received a 10-year ban on reentry to the United States. DePaolo called the situation, “a pretty harsh thing” that Clinton would try to change as president, if “the Senate becomes a Democratic body and there’s some hope that they can actually pass immigration legislation.” She also said Republicans won’t do anything about immigration other than “try to deport everybody,” according to the OSC. The office said this violated the Hatch Act’s restrictions on political activity for federal employees while on the job. 

“The very nature of her offense politicizes the judiciary and the federal workforce,” an administrative law judge for the MSPB said in the decision. “This conduct sends a bad message to subordinates, and possibly instills the notion that political activity is allowed at work.”  

Special Counsel Henry Kerner, who suggested in 2018 that DePaolo should “face significant disciplinary action,” said he is pleased with the outcome. During a hearing in June, Kerner, a Republican and Trump appointee, came under fire from Republicans for the OSC recommending the White House fire presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway for Hatch Act violations. 

“At a time when the country appears sharply divided on partisan lines, the public must be able to trust that regardless of which party is in power, or which candidate a federal employee supports, federal law is administered uniformly and without partisan bias,” Kerner said.