Both prior to his election, and subsequent to his election, the new President has publicly attacked and attempted to humiliate two different federal court judges. The first was an American born judge of Mexican heritage who was alleged to be biased because of then candidate Trump’s proposed ban on immigrants from Mexico and the building of a wall. The second occurred when a judge in California issued a “Stay” of the travel ban decreed by Executive Order of the new President.
I have been an attorney for 35 years, and have developed a knowledge of how judges in general react to criticism and how most judges do not allow this criticism to alter their views on the law and facts allowing them to make independent and unbiased rulings.
In order to be appointed to a position as a federal court judge, a candidate has to go through an extensive background check, interviews, and be approved by Congress. This exhaustive process works to find the best and brightest for these important judicial positions.
Further, once appointed, judges from all over the country often meet each other at judicial conferences, seminars, or otherwise. As with all workplace occupations, friendships are developed, and the discussion of popular topics like the new administration are discussed.
By publicly attacking the federal court judges, the new President is potentially not only alienating these two judges, but the entire federal bench which includes Federal Courts of Appeal and the United States Supreme Court. Considering that it appears that many of the new President’s intended programs, plans, Executive Orders and laws will be subject to challenge through the federal courts one might question whether or not personally attacking federal court judges will be beneficial down the road as these judge’s brethren will be required to make rulings knowing that if the current administration disagrees with that ruling they may be subjected to personal attacks or worse. This includes the thinly veiled “threat” that if a judge’s ruling in favor a stay on the travel ban results in a terrorist related death in The United States that the judge who issued the stay should be held personally responsible (read by some as punished or harmed).
The greatness of America includes the checks and balances provided by the three branches of the federal government. While attacks by the executive branch on the legislative branch and vice versa are regularly seen in the Washington, D.C., attacks by the executive branch on the judiciary have been rare.
While that trend seems to be changing, one must question whether or not there is any benefit at the end of the day to government officials, even the President, who attack federal court judges who are the people who ultimately will be determining the legitimacy and constitutionality of the actions of the President. Most experience trial lawyers have learned to keep their mouths shut when asked questions about a particular judge or a particular judge’s ruling that is averse to them knowing they will appear again either before that judge, or that judge’s colleagues. There truly are times that discretion truly is the better part of valor.
Steven T. Blomberg