Right to criticize judges is under attack
The shooting deaths last February of the husband and mother of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow in Chicago brought the issue of judicial security into sharper focus both for judges and the U.S. Marshals Service, which protects federal judges and other court employees .......
"Generally, people today are much more aggressive in communicating their concerns to government officials," he says. "Some are just people who are expressing their displeasure with a ruling. Others go far beyond and cross over into a threat."
Lefkow, in her first public statements after the murders, begged Congress to turn sympathy for her into real protection for judges and their families. She also asked the lawmakers to repudiate political attacks on judiciary ......
"Fostering disrespect for judges can only encourage those that are on the edge, or the fringe, to exact revenge on a judge who ruled against them," she said.......
Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who has proposed court security legislation in the Senate, agreed.
"The rhetoric can only stir the pot, and it must stop," Leahy said in a statement. "It is irresponsible."
Well then, I guess that I am irresponsible, because several of my articles on this blog are devoted to disrespecting Judge John E. Jones III, the infamous judge who decided the Kitzmiller v. Dover intelligent design case.
Judge Jones himself said in a speech to the Anti-Defamation League,
We cannot know if, in fact, the killer of Judge Lefkow's family members, who later took his own life, was influenced by the creeping disrespect for the judiciary that exists today. However, I would respectfully suggest that it is entirely likely that it was.
Judge Jones is wrong. Ending public criticism of judges would not end resentment of them. People would still have personal grudges against judges who ruled against them.
Judge Jones went on to say,
And I will share something else with you that I have in common with Judge Whitamore, who presided in the Terri Schiavo case. That is, after our respective decisions, mine in the Dover case and Judge Whitamore's in the Schiavo case in 2005, both of us were under round-the-clock marshal protection for a period of time due to threats that we received, in my case, from various parts of the country.
As the following excerpt from the conclusion section of the Kitzmiller opinion shows, the threats have obviously not discouraged judges from disparaging litigants or controversial ideas:
Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.
Judges should not abuse their positions by taking potshots at litigants or controversial ideas. Judges should follow Chief Justice John "Ump" Roberts principle that judges are like umpires -- it is not their job to pitch or bat and no one ever came to a baseball game to watch the umpire. In contrast, the "umpire" has become the star player of the Dover trial -- the trial made Judge Jones a hot speaker on the lecture circuit and he was chosen to be on the list of Time magazine's 100 most influential people.
Writing this article prompted me to search the Internet for judge jokes. Here is one of my favorites:
Q: What do you call a judge who has an IQ of 40?
A: Your honor.