Corrupting The Judiciary

There is a bedrock principle of ethical behavior that requires avoiding conflicts of interest. If someone serves on a board or commission, for example, and a pending case has been brought by a relative or close friend,  we expect that person to recuse–to abstain from participation in the decision.

When the issue is judicial behavior, it is even more important to avoid even the appearance of bias or impropriety, because the legitimacy and effectiveness of the judicial system depends upon public confidence in the probity and disinterestedness of judges.

One of the (multitude of) problems with Trump’s nomination of unqualified judicial candidates that Mitch McConnell then rams through the confirmation process is that ethical behavior is one of the qualifications a number of them appear to lack.

A recent report originally penned by David Badash for The New Civil Rights Movement is a troubling example.

Legal experts are scratching their heads after a federal judge appointed by President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday he is delaying handing down his decision in a Trump tax returns case until other federal judges hand down their decisions in other Trump cases. That judge is a former Trump transition team volunteer and has donated to the Trump campaign.

District Judge Trevor McFadden of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia announced he will hold up his ruling in a case brought by the House Ways and Means Committee against the U.S. Treasury Dept. The case involves gaining access to six years of Trump’s tax returns. The law clearly says the IRS “shall” hand them over to Congress. The Trump administration says Congress has no right to investigate.

This is not a case where legal or factual complexities require time-consuming analysis. This is a case in which a judge has a blatant conflict of interest, and should have recused himself.

Judge McFadden has already exhibited bias in his handling of the case, which was originally brought last  August. According to Politico, he denied House Democrats’ request to expedite consideration of the case as well as their request to rule on its merits, despite the fact that this would seem to be a textbook case for summary judgment.

Now, he has informed the parties that he will not rule on the matter until the court that is considering a challenge to the subpoena of former White House lawyer Don McGahn has ruled. He has not offered an explanation for that delay, nor indicated what the McGahn case has to do with the litigation before him–undoubtedly because (as lawyers and legal commentators have noted) there is simply no connection between the issues in the two cases.

The only explanation that makes sense is that Judge McFadden is trying to help the President avoid disclosure of his taxes. Since the law is clear and unambiguous– a ruling in favor of Trump would be a too-obvious gift to a favored litigant–he is apparently trying to avoid ruling at all until after the election.

The Executive Editor of Above the Law summed it up as a “Trump judge trying to look for a way to prop up Trump’s terrible arguments without looking like he’s a Trump judge.”

It is no longer possible to ignore the fact that Trump, Barr, Pence, Pompeo and others in the administration are deeply corrupt. We are just beginning to realize just how much Trump’s terrible judicial choices have added to the rot and corruption.

And according to the Washington Post, one in every four circuit court judges is now a Trump appointee …


  1. Packing the courts is a standard part of the prelude to gaining complete power and insulating oneself from any scrutiny. That’s the road we are heading down under Trump. If he succeeds, we will become a nation to be reviled.

  2. Access to Trump’s tax returns is a continuing political and legal soap opera; to Trump, he is the leading actor and hero in this ongoing TV serial. It is so entangled at this time with his many other illegal activities that it comprises a separate corrupt, conflict of interest branch of the Judicial system.

    I suggest we allow that issue to stagnate in the judicial system as we find a way to deal with the more corrupt, more important conflict of interest Senate dealings with the Articles of Impeachment with Chief Justice Roberts overseeing what is now a Constitutional crisis of a magnitude this nation has never before witnessed. As Representative Adam Schiff stated last night before the Senate and to the nation; the process established by McConnell and accepted by the Senate with Chief Justice Roberts’ silent approval, is more vital to us as a nation than the Impeachment against Donald Trump because it will set the standard for all future presidents. The performances by Trump’s defense team is vacuous and offers no legal defense because there is none; their total lack of anything resembling a legal basis is shameful.

    “It is no longer possible to ignore the fact that Trump, Barr, Pence, Pompeo and others in the administration are deeply corrupt.”

    Donald Trump’s decades of hidden tax forms will be waiting for legal action when he is no longer president and not until.

  3. The same thing happened during the Reagan administration. It took a generation for most of them to retire. We will be going through the same thing again, thanks to Mitch and Grassley.

  4. This is the most important reason why we need a Democratic landslide in November. Should that happen, the Congress should start a correction process by setting into law those things that were custom prior to 2016. Require a”Qualified”rating from the ABA as a minimum. Require a super-majority for SCOTUS approvals. Require Congress take up any and all SCOTUS nominations during the sitting President’s term, unless precluded by specific time constraints (i.e. nominated after the November election).

    Additionally, Congress should create a non-partisan judicial review panel, with the authority to refer to Congress for impeachment any judge who violates ethical or legal standards in the performance of his or her duties.

  5. Does anyone know? Can the Senate Majority Leader be impeached?

    It seems that we have learned that a flaw in the design of our government is in it’s resistance to tampering when a President and a same political party Majority Leader are both corrupt and blantently conspiring.

  6. Well, in my personal opinion, any judiciary appointees made by a corrupt administration should be null and void. Pay to play is presently/supposedly against the law, I say supposedly, because it seems there is no rule of law anymore. But say, in the off chance the Donald is extricated from the White House, all decisions with an asterisk reflecting the Donald, should be a subject for reversal.

    Decisions made under the veil of corruption and misconduct would have to be considered ethically untenable. So not only decisions that benefit certain political benefactors of the corrupt venal despot, but including appointees and appointments under IT’s purview!

    So, if the Donald is out, then, emergency executive orders could reverse a lot of It’s (The Donald)shenanigans. Of course I’m sure there would be a lot of howling, because that would mean someone other than a Republican would be in charge of the executive branch, but it could be done. Just do it and ask for forgiveness later, LOL. Then, if there is a non-Republican majority across the board, they should get to work and make sure these decisions cannot be overturned, And, By Any Means Necessary, no softball players allowed.

    Some of this could be ethically questionable, but, when you’re trying to put out a massive fire, you have to set back fires along with other methods. Fight fire with fire as they say. This actually should be in the messaging, I believe it would bring more people into the fray, and that would be beneficial for liberal minded folks. Gun control? Executive Order! Citizens United? Executive Order! Worried about the courts? Executive Order! Expanded judiciary? Executive Order! One person one vote? Executive Order! If the opportunity arises, remember, we didn’t start this thing, but, it could be finished by us. When you wrestle with oinkers, you’re going to get muddy, full of excrement, the thing is, do you continue wearing the excrement or do you wash it off?

    The putrid stench coming from the Exec. Branch and the Senate indicates there needs to be a disinfection regimen immediately, if not sooner, LOL. So, do you debate on the method of the disinfection? Or do you try to stop a plague? Once you stop it, you put methods in place that it can’t ever be done again!

    Pipe Dream! Hey, Chiba is legal in Illinois now, LOL!

  7. Anyone who thought “Moderate GOP Senators” would seize the opportunity during the Impeachment hearings yesterday to assert themselves, must now realize – It ain’t gonna Happen.

    President Agent Orange – Pastor Pence and Moscow Mitch own the GOP lock, stock and barrel (An unholy trinity is there ever was one).

    There is No One in the Reactionary-Right Wing-Evangelical GOP who dares to oppose President Agent Orange. The only serious rival Agent Orange had during the 2016 GOP nomination was the repellent bible thumper – Ted Cruz. Cruz, who suffered under Agent Orange’s various character assassinations is now firmly backing President Agent Orange.

  8. I have never been an elected or appointed judge but I have served as special judge where the sitting judge has been removed on motion as well as pro tem judge for hundreds of uncontested divorces. Not being an elected or appointed judge means that when appointed for specific cases one can look at the parties and decide out front whether to serve. Thus if my brother were a party in a case for which I was appointed I would simply refuse to serve, thus negating recusal. Regularly elected or appointed judges should follow suit via recusal.

    Even the appearance of partiality is to be avoided if pubic confidence in the judiciary is to remain intact, and the case Sheila cites today is more than suspect in view of the fact that there is no reason for the delay inasmuch as there is no Rule 56 (summary judgment) argument available since there are no disputed facts. Sure smells of judicial tyranny and is a case where the judge should have recused himself in the first place.

    With Trump’s corruption of the Senate and now (apparently) having some luck in corrupting the judiciary, our last bastion in protecting our democracy is teetering. It appears Mitch will not allow a “trial” where we have witnesses and documentary evidence, a first in my experience, and so with the aid of Republicans who “see no evil” etc. it appears that we are heading for a Big Brother experience as Orwell documented in his classic 1984, and I am still marveling at why Republicans are assisting in this process since ensconced Big Brothers typically abolish all other (former) branches of government as we all become Winston Smiths.

    To do: What we’re doing. Tell the truth, resist, and send these cancers on our democracy back to the Whigdom from which they arose 166 years ago come November.

  9. Can anyone on this blog explain to me why judges themselves cannot be sued for refusing to follow the law?

    It just doesn’t make sense to me that they can be so completely protected from breaking the law or that they can do whatever they want to do without any repercussions.

  10. This discussion of reversing the damage done under Trump in civil rights, the environment, international relations begs the question of how soon such can have real effect. Pundits and elected officials have opined over the last few months that the damage will take decades to be negated. John Sorg mentions Executive Orders. Would they have to be followed by legislation by a Democratic House and Senate? But I get ahead of facts and reality.

  11. There have been a number of impeachments over the years…of judges…

    My pollyanna self has been feeling vaguely hopeful lately. Go ahead and laugh, or smirk…that and a shake of my head is my counterbalance. However, I do feel deeply grateful for the masterful Democrat Impeachment Managers. Also for Speaker Pelosi, Representative Schiff, all the participating witnesses, and the list goes on (and includes this blog).

    Remember previous do-nothing congresses? Isn’t it nice that it is Democrats/liberals who are, in this cycle, consistently demonstrating that congress can be a hotbed of expertise and action? People for whom cheating is a regular/only path to ‘winning’, i.e., Republicans, have zero resources when forced to actually participate in governing, an amazement and a tragedy. Pete (I think) used to say – Democrats and Republicans want the same things, Democrats just want them for everyone – don’t lose hope now, y’all, please!

  12. Would there be any hope that a state disciplinary commission, or the federal equivalent, would take action? Refusing to rule and/or delaying a ruling solely for political reasons when the law is as clear as in this case would seem to qualify as judicial misconduct. Or, is impeachment the only route available?

  13. Aside from the President, elected representatives are not subject to Impeachment. They are subject to recall, which isn’t likely to happen, as it requires action by the voters who put them into office. The last big recall effort was against Scott Walker in Wisconsin. It failed and may have also set him up to be somewhat of a martyr for his next run for governor. File this under: “Be careful what you ask for.”

  14. Failure to recuse himself in this case is a breech of judicial ethics. A clearly impeachable offense for which the very first impeachment trial was conducted before the Senate There have been many impeached and removed federal judges. In complete revelation of the McConnell corruption of the impeachment trial process.. One of the most recent impeachment trials of a federal judge took 9 months.

  15. Peggy – about the Walker recall – that disaster was Democratically (large D) inflicted – the man who lost the election to Walker won the right to face him in the recall – his campaign stance was that it had NOTHING to do with wrongdoing by Walker and EVERYTHING to do with him getting a rerun of the election he had lost – of course that made Walker a hero.

    As for the Supremes, “Yes, I am overseeing a case involving the son of the man who gave me a lifetime appointment, and yes, my decision will make that son President whether he actually won the vote or not. I am Justice Clarence Thomas.” I lost all respect then.

    I will point out that this is the same Clarence Thomas who wants to reinstate all the laws that those evil liberal Justices overturned – I have always wondered whether that included Loving v. Virginia — Mr. FELON Thomas (he is married to a white woman and lives in Virginia).

    So here is my real question – what are the chances, given a Democratic sweep, that any of the incompetent, unethical judges rushed through by McConnell will be impeached.

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