Patterico's Pontifications


Judges on Soapboxes

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Constitutional Law,Judiciary,Terrorism — Patterico @ 9:23 pm

I’ve had it with judges on soapboxes. Let me belatedly express agreement with Dafydd ab Hugh in his discussion of the sentence given the Millennium Bomber.

Until the judge opened his mouth, I believe that it would have been possible to remain agnostic on whether the sentence was proper. Yes: 22 years for what he planned to do is clearly inadequate. But cooperation on terrorism can be important, and the guy did provide cooperation for a period of time. Most of us commenting on his sentence don’t really know what he might have helped prevent. Even given that he stopped cooperating at some point, the cooperation he did give is probably worth something.

In the abstract, my kneejerk reaction is that the benefit given should be something like a life sentence rather than a death sentence. But apparently our laws aren’t that tough, and he wasn’t facing that much time.

So, depending on various factors, reasonable minds might differ as to what the appropriate sentence should be.

But it’s hard to trust that the judge got it right when the judge feels the need to get up on his soapbox and give a chest-beating diatribe about how the judicial system works, and we don’t need to do what we’re doing at Gitmo:

I would like to convey the message that our system works. We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, or detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant, or deny him the right to counsel, or invoke any proceedings beyond those guaranteed by or contrary to the United States Constitution.

I would suggest that the message to the world from today’s sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart. We can deal with the threats to our national security without denying the accused fundamental constitutional protections.

Despite the fact that Mr. Ressam is not an American citizen and despite the fact that he entered this country intent upon killing American citizens, he received an effective, vigorous defense, and the opportunity to have his guilt or innocence determined by a jury of 12 ordinary citizens.

Most importantly, all of this occurred in the sunlight of a public trial. There were no secret proceedings, no indefinite detention, no denial of counsel.

The tragedy of September 11th shook our sense of security and made us realize that we, too, are vulnerable to acts of terrorism.

Unfortunately, some believe that this threat renders our Constitution obsolete. This is a Constitution for which men and women have died and continue to die and which has made us a model among nations. If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won.

No, judge. If the terrorists are allowed to go free and kill us, then the terrorists will have won.

I understand pride in our criminal justice system and the rule of law. But, judge, the procedures at Gitmo come within our system of laws. The Administration is proceeding according to the law as determined by the Supreme Court.

So we don’t need your moralizing. You give the impression that you are more interested in grandstanding for the elite media than in protecting our country. And, frankly, that very moralizing causes many of us to question whether your sentence was proper.

9 Responses to “Judges on Soapboxes”

  1. Agree completely with your analysis, including that cooperation warrants reduction of a death sentence to a life sentence. The judge was out of line for his jabs at the military’s capture and detention of combat prisoners at Gitmo. Lock ’em up and keep them there for a very long time.

    Chris Gingrich (5e4d5c)

  2. I agree completely with your comments here. Just think, without jury nullification this judge would have ultimate power in his court room.

    Keszler (9acdcf)

  3. What a dip.

    eddie haskell (8fd1a1)

  4. Is there any reason to believe he is not still committed to his task? I don’t understand why he didn’t get life, with the only possibility of seeing daylight would be on parole with an electronic monitor attached to his ankle (or wherever they put them by the time he comes out).

    MD in Philly (b3202e)

  5. The terrorists see this sort of thing and are convinced they will surely prevail against such weaklings. They catch one of ours and they gleefully chop his head off on TV, while we sit quietly and listen to lectures from idiots about how we mistreat prisoners. It would be laughable, if it wasn’t so real.

    Well, on the othe hand, we can hope Judge Jackass is part of a secret CIA plan to trick Osama into over confidence.

    Black Jack (ee9fe2)

  6. Patterico, as you once pointed out re another judge’s ruling on a different topic, we should not be able to tell a judge’s politics based on their rulings, but in this case we can, and that’s what’s wrong.

    ras (f9de13)

  7. Just out of curiosity: if the judge in his rant said things that go against Supreme Court rulings (past or future) could those rants be used as a basis for an appeal even though they don’t have any direct bearing on the case?

    Doc Rampage (47be8d)

  8. You see, this is why blogs are so great. I can ask a question like that and get an answer from an actual lawyer within a day –for free. And if the answer were controversial, there’s a good chance another lawyer would have answered the answer.

    Good to see you back, Xrlq. Hope you and your wife are doing OK.

    Doc Rampage (47be8d)

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