Court: Mass Immigration Guilty Pleas Illegal

El Paso – A federal appeals court in San Francisco says a court procedure used for some criminal immigration cases is unlawful.

A three-judge panel with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that simultaneously accepting guilty pleas from 50 to 100 defendants accused of crossing the border illegally violated federal court rules. Those rules require that each defendant be read their rights and given an explanation of what it means to plead guilty.

The ruling stems from cases against six defendants in Arizona who were arrested in 2008 by U.S. Border Patrol agents in a so-called zero-tolerance zone. That zone allows for all illegal border crossers to be arrested and prosecuted in federal court. Some federal courts in West and south Texas use the same procedure.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.