Not long ago, perhaps just four years ago, we could not have dreamed of a president publicly criticizing judges, ignoring judicial rulings, or god forbid, attacking judges through tweets. That was four years ago. Now, Trump publicly rips judges whenever he believes one is making his life more difficult and does it in a very public way.
Earlier today, we brought you the quote from Judge Easterbrook, a vaunted Seventh Circuit conservative appellate court judge. Easterbrook’s message was in response to Trump’s DOJ ignoring a ruling. Now that the sun is setting upon another day, yet another judge has sent another message out in response to Trump’s personal criticism about sentencing ranges in the Roger Stone case, and the sentence handed down to Paul Manafort (the complaint about “solitary confinement”).
Today, the Chief Judge of the United States District Court in Washington DC came to the defense of Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who Trump attacked. Chief Judge Beryl Howell responded to these cheap shots from presidential phone by stating: “Public criticism or pressure is not a factor.”
“The Judges of this Court base their sentencing decisions on careful consideration of the actual record in the case before them; the applicable sentencing guidelines and statutory factors; the submissions of the parties, the Probation Office and victims; and their own judgment and experience,”
That may seem exceedingly mild. Yes, the language utilized is absolutely mild. But it operates as a roar, because the judiciary simply doesn’t respond to external pressures, ever. The fact that the Chief Judge felt the need to speak publicly at all says volumes.
Trump’s foray into the sentencing process, weighing in on the prosecuting attorneys’ sentencing recommendation and on the judge that will do the sentencing, would normally easily be impeachment-worthy conduct in a normal United States in normal times.
Because we no longer have the impeachment option open to us, the judges on the bench are taking it on themselves to stand up to Trump. They are doing the right thing. We are entering such dangerous territory, here.
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