Amid the outrage by thousands of former Department of Justice officials over the happenings at the current version of the DOJ, a national association of federal judges is moving up a scheduled spring conference because it “could not wait.”
That’s what George W. Bush-appointed Eastern District of Pennsylvania U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe, the president of the Federal Judges Association (FJA), told USA Today on Monday about the state of affairs. Rufe said there are “plenty of issues that we are concerned about.” The urgency is plainly about what happened last week in the Roger Stone and Michael Flynn cases, on President Donald Trump’s Twitter account, and in Attorney General William Barr’s public statements.
In a rare statement, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia also saw fit to respond last week.
“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,” Judge Beryl A. Howell said after the president went after U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Twitter. Jackson is presiding over the Stone case.
Judge Rufe has called for a so-called “emergency meeting” to take place via conference call on Tuesday.
“We just could not wait until April to discuss matters of this importance,” Rufe told USA Today. The FJA website shows that an FJA Annual Board of Directors Meeting was scheduled for April 18-19, 2020.
Some legal observers immediately noted that “[o]ur institutions are sounding alarms.”
1100 member Federal judges' association calls emergency meeting, saying it’s unheard of for DOJ’s top leaders to overrule line prosecutors, following established policies, to give preferential treatment to a friend of the president, as AG Barr did. https://t.co/THOnZgLU2M
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) February 17, 2020
Wow. After more than 2,000 former DOJ expressed alarm about challenges to rule of law, now the Federal Judges' Association has called an emergency meeting re concerns around independent law enforcement.
Our institutions are sounding alarms. https://t.co/CWpmVAwkFE
— Ian Bassin (@ianbassin) February 17, 2020
But others were not pleased about the statement being made here by the FJA.
This is ridiculous and increases the politicization of the judiciary.
The right approach is to decide sentences & cases without regard to Trump's blabber. Not hold "emergency meetings." https://t.co/DO4sYfnYfb
— Andy Grewal (@AndyGrewal) February 17, 2020
Here’s what the FJA says it stands for on its website:
The Federal Judges Association (FJA) is a national voluntary organization of United States federal judges, appointed pursuant to Article III of the Constitution, whose mission is to support and enhance the role of its members within a fair, impartial and independent judiciary; to actively build a community of interest among its members; and to sustain our system of justice through civics education and public outreach.
Inevitably, from time to time, some judicial decisions are unpopular. The FJA, as an independent organization, can speak in one voice to protect the independence of the judiciary and to explain its significance to a free society. The Association expresses the collective view of Article III judges to other branches of government and the public on issues related to fair and impartial courts.
[Image via by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images]