A hallmark of our nation is our structure of government, which is comprised of three co-equal branches working together and when necessary, serving as a check and balance on the others in accordance with the Constitution. Vital to this is the judicial branch, its independence, the integrity of our judges, and our adherence to the Rule of Law. Indeed, the LBA’s mission is, in part, to “Promote justice, professional excellence and respect for the law….” This is why I find it necessary to issue this statement on President Trump’s recent statements, calling into question the integrity of the judiciary and suggesting the executive branch may not comply with the Rule of Law.
President Trump recently made comments on social media impugning Federal District Court Judge James Robart’s integrity by referring to Judge Robarts as a “so-called judge,” denigrating his intelligence, calling his decision “outrageous” and “ridiculous,” accusing him of opening up the country to potential terrorists, and blaming future terrorist attacks on him and the court system. The sole reasoning for these attacks was Judge Robart’s ruling against President Trump on a preliminary injunction proceeding in States of Washington & Minnesota v. Trump, challenging the legality of the January 27, 2017 Executive Order travel ban. President Trump’s statements were not simply expressions of disappointment or disagreement with Judge Robart’s ruling, but were ad hominem attacks, which undermine the credibility of the judicial branch and threaten judicial integrity and independence.
This is not intended as a political statement. While there can certainly be civil disagreement as to the merits of a case or the arguments put forward by parties, attacks on the judicial process and a judge’s credibility, particularly when that judge has done nothing more than his job in ruling on a case that has come before him, are inappropriate. Moreover, while we may not always agree with a court’s decision, we are expected to respect it and abide by it, the legal process, and the Rule of Law; yet even this basic tenet has been questioned in recent weeks. As lawyers, we all have a vital role in supporting judicial independence and integrity and upholding the Rule of Law. The fact that judges, given their special function, may be limited in how they speak to this issue makes it more important for the Bar and all lawyers to speak for them now.
In the coming days, weeks, months and years ahead, I ask all of us to remain stalwart defenders of the judicial branch and Rule of Law. Speak up when you must, and at all times, do so with the respect, discipline, and integrity expected of our profession.
-- LBA President Amanda Main