Officials in Corpus Christi, Texas, placed a municipal court judge on unpaid suspension when they learned she is not a U.S. citizen — a requirement for the position.
After learning Judge Young Min Burkett was not a citizen, City officials placed her on unpaid leave for 90 days to give her time to complete her citizenship process, according to Corpus Christi Mayor Pro-Tem Lucy Rubio. The City did not disclose how they learned about her lack of citizenship.
Mayor Pro-Tem Rubio told the Associated Press that no one asked her about her citizenship during the hiring and qualification process. He also said she never attempted to deceive anyone or misrepresent her background.
However, the Department of Homeland Security Employment Eligibility Verification form, I-9, asks, under penalty of perjury, if the applicant is a citizen, noncitizen national of the U.S., a lawful permanent resident, or an alien authorized to work. The City did not disclose if Judge Burkett filled out the form, how she answered it, or who verified the information on the form.
Rubio reported that Corpus Christi City attorneys have reviewed the circumstances and stated that rulings Judge Burkett made during her tenure remain valid and lawful.
While Judge Burkett did not return calls from reporters, her husband sent a statement to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, USA Today reported. “The job posting specified only the ability to work in the U.S.,” he stated. “She has never made a representation that she is a citizen.” He said she obtained legal permanent resident status in 2007.
Corpus Christi Mayor-Elect Joe McComb told reporters at KIII ABC3 he believed the matter to simply be a paperwork error. “Did the City make a mistake in not asking the right question?” the mayor-elect said, “I don’t think there was any intention by anybody, City or applicant, and so, you make a mistake, you admit it, and you move on and that’s what we’re doing.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Rubio chairs the City’s Municipal Court Committee. She said she is not convinced the city attorney’s opinion is correct and this could be more of a wait-and-see situation. She told KIII reporters, “Someone can come back and say, ‘You know what? I’m going to say I don’t agree with her decision, and I’m going to challenge it,’ and they have every right to challenge it.”
A local attorney told the Corpus Christi ABC affiliate the revelation “could prove problematic when it comes to challenging those rulings.”
A Facebook page claiming to be Judge Young Min Choi Burkett states she began working as a municipal court judge in March 2015. Prior to that, the page claimed she worked in the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office for nearly seven years. The page lists Burkett’s place of birth as Seoul, South Korea.
The city attorney’s office and the judge did not return calls to local news outlets.