Sunday, September 23, 2007

Analysis: How will things change at the Justice Department if Judge Mukasey is confirmed by the Senate?

Rulings by Mukasey Are Called Conservative, Fair
By Robert Barnes and Michael A. FletcherWashington Post Staff Writers Friday, September 21, 2007; Page A03

Judge Michael B. Mukasey clearly believed that the defendant did not have a case. He dismissed her assertion that the New York City Police Department fired her because she had accused a more senior officer of rape, without allowing a jury to hear the case. But a higher court disagreed and told the judge to hold a trial.

There, the jury found for Karen Sorlucco, and ordered the police department to pay her nearly $265,000. But again Mukasey disagreed, making a rare decision to overturn the jury's verdict, partly because he believed that the victim had committed perjury. "It would be grossly unjust for the jury verdict to stand," the judge said.

And, again, a higher court disagreed: "The trial court overstepped its bounds, and usurped the jury's function of judging credibility." It ordered Mukasey to enter judgment in Sorlucco's favor.

The case, finally settled in 1992, fairly early in Mukasey's career on the bench, showed a judge insistent on doing what he felt the law compelled, even when a jury and a higher court disagreed. "It's difficult whenever a judge takes away a jury verdict, but he was doing his job as he saw it," said Minna J. Kotkin, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, whose legal clinic handled Sorlucco's appeal. She added, "I don't think civil rights has been his first love."

Many lawyers who have practiced before Mukasey, 66, describe him as conservative but not doctrinaire, and fair. The long judicial record created by Mukasey's 18 years as judge on the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York included thousands of cases that ranged from high-profile terrorism trials to lengthy insurance battles over liability in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the twin towers, and a case in which a jury awarded $100 to a woman who said boxer Mike Tyson grabbed her buttocks.

His generally conservative demeanor on the bench and his self-confidence seem particularly pronounced in his handling of the complex trial of Omar Abdel Rahman, the "blind sheik," after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. After a long Rahman complaint at sentencing, he said: "You should be assured that there is no shortage of will in this country to deal with the threat of violence from any source. If you look at the record of even the relatively recent past -- the last 50 years of this country -- you will find that this country has faced militant fascism, and prevailed; it faced militant communism, and prevailed."

Mukasey also told Rahman: "The one thing that the sentence in this case will certainly assure to the citizens of this city and of this country, who deserve it, is that you and the others who are being sentenced here will never be in a position to do again what the evidence showed overwhelmingly that you did in this case."

While many commentators saw that trial, and Mukasey's handling of another case involving terrorist Jose Padilla, as models of jurisprudence in handling terrorism suspects, Mukasey came away from his experience deeply skeptical that the current criminal justice system is up to that relatively new task. He has since suggested that a separate national court might be needed for such cases.

"Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, is said to have told his American captors that he wanted a lawyer and would see them in court," Mukasey wrote last month. "If the Supreme Court rules . . . that foreigners in U.S. custody enjoy the protection of our Constitution regardless of the place or circumstances of their apprehension, this bold joke could become a reality." His statement matched the Bush administration's view.

In another op-ed column, Mukasey said he agrees with the proposition that government "is entitled, at least in the first instance, to receive from its citizens the benefit of the doubt." But while Mukasey ruled that he supported the administration's detention of Padilla as an "enemy combatant," he showed independence by ruling over the administration's objections that Padilla had the right to an attorney.

In a later case, Mukasey also ruled against a government bid to administer drugs to Susan Lindauer, a mentally unstable woman who had been charged as an agent of Iraq, to be able to try her in court.

Roland Thau, a federal public defender in Manhattan who has appeared before Mukasey, said: "He gave you a very good trial. He is very sharp, very focused. It was interesting to argue before him because he was interested in ideas and language."
(this article continues at www.washingtonpost.com)

30 comments:

jzurko said...

As Judge Mukasey has shown, he is not afraid to do what he thinks is right even if others (like a jury and a higher court) are in opposition to him. He is likely to bring his conservative views to the department with much less regard to civil rights than his predecessors. I believe he will be consistent with his view that foreigners do not have the right to an attorney. Though I do not doubt his experience and intelligence, I do think that confirming Judge Mukasey would bring a very abrasive, conservative to the Justice Department. If he is confirmed, civil rights will likely diminish if anything.

Alex said...

I agree with with the comment above me, Judge Mukasey has shown that he is not afarid to push for what he belives is right. I believe that this is a good quality for a judge. While he has shown less regard to cival rights I don't belive that he is likely to diminish civil rights.

JamieW said...

I doubt anyone will have the bravery to diminish civil rights on a whole. They may be modified but I think diminished is taking it too far.

Lisa Marie said...

I agree with the other comments. That Judge Mukasey is not afraid to do what is right even if some oppose him. He sticks up for what he believes. I do not believe that if he is confirmed by the Senate that civil rights will be diminished. If you diminish civil rights isn't that going against our Founders? Or am I not thinking on the same line.

Erica C said...

My least favorite way to start a blog comment: "I agree with (fill in the blank)." However, I agree with Joanna. Conservative views will be brought to the US Attorney General position. Mukasey's strong views on immigration will impact the US justice department. I also would agree that the observance of civil rights will lessen while he holds his position in the cabinet. Nonetheless, it might be his disregard for civil rights in terrorism-related trials that has made him the AG nominee.

ericag said...

I have to agree with everyone else... including Erica, with the starting with agreeing with everyone else. I think more people should stand up for what they believe in. The Justice Department I don't believe will dimish at all

arletap said...

Although highly conservative and a firm advocator of the law, it's surprising that he is a strong supporter of candidates like Lieberman and Giuliani. Without a doubt, he is qualified and has years of judicial experience under his belt. I don't believe the confirmation of Mukasey as Attorney General would be the downfall of civil rights in any sense; if anything, it will be the addition of logic and reason to the Bush administration.

Vlad said...
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Vlad said...

I agree with Arleta. This is a free-thinking judge who is not focused on his reputation in his party like Alberto Gonzalez was. He is quite old, so he doesn't have much time left in his career and thus, shouldn't be afraid of opposing his peers. He is quite high in the chain of command in Washington, so after my knowledge obtained from the tv show The Wire (season 4), few will try to go against him in fear of their reputation. This is a bold move by President Bush.

RyanO said...

I think Judge Mukasey will keep civil rights intact, but make exceptions to them such as in the case decribed. I think he will definitely be a man to be reckoned with because he doesn't always follow mainstream party politics.

Johnny B said...

The article that you posted does a good job in showing that Judge Mukasey is firm in what he believes in. Although he'll choose what he believes in, he may make choices that not everybody believes in which might create a conflict. Overall he'll act upon what he feels is right, but his conservative views make it harder to tell the outcome.

mente said...

Sadly, I'm going to follow the crowd and say that I agree with someone; more specifically Arleta and Vlad. I think that Mukasey's age and experience is a good thing, and he would prove to be an interesting addition to Bush's administration.

Angelina said...

Even though he is conserative, I like that he is not afraid to what he believes is right. And even though they say if he is confirmed, civil rights will be diminished, how can civil rights be diminished as a whole if Judge Mukasey is confirmed by the Senate. How can one man make such a huge change, with something like civil rights?

amandak said...

I agree with Joanna that civil rights will dimish with Judge Mukasey's confirmation. He's firm in his beliefs, but I think many of his beliefs are very different from the norm. He disregards the opposition, and it seems as if he may ignore civil right to uphold his conservative views.

jamieg said...
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jamieg said...

I don't find it especially commendable for someone (especially someone with power) to stand by what he believes is right if doing so potentially violates someone else's civil rights. More than anything, I fear that the public will be accepting of his opinions on the rights of foreigners, especially when 'terrorists' are concerned

jzurko said...

Well, seeing as I have already posted on this blog, I'll open up the floor to new discussion.

"A contingent of leaders from four civil-rights groups said that they were “extremely disappointed” after a Friday meeting with the Justice Department, whom they said made no commitments to prosecute the hanging of nooses on a tree at Jena High School in LaSalle Parish and the posting of addresses of Jena 6 family members on Web sites." Source: 2TheAdvocate

Does anyone think that there should be prosecution concerning the hanging of nooses on a tree at Jena High School or the posting of family member adresses? Or, do you think the Justice department was too slow to "enforce the law" against what many consider hate crimes or threats of violence?

Vlad said...

The white students who were involved in the noose hanging should be removed from school and suffer the legal consequences involved in hate crimes. As far as the Jena 6, they should be arrested for their violent beating but not with such a severe consequence. One of they boys in the Jena 6 should be punished more than the others because of his age and his violent history.

Lisa Marie said...

I think the school acted very poorly upon the situation. Something could have been done to stop the racial diversity. Even bring Oprah in =D. I do agree with Vlad and his opinion. That the white kid should have to deal with the legal consequences. But I do believe the Jena 6 need to pay for the crime in some way or another.

KellyH said...

In response to Joanna, I do believe the adults (these people are old enough to understand just how extremely disgusting and hateful their "prank" was, they're not kids) who put the nooses in the tree should be prosecuted for a hate crime. Just as Vlad said, the Jena 6 should still be punished for taking it to a violent level, but the system needs to equal things out by making the way both groups are punished more equal, and not have such exteme light and heavy sentences on either end.

The fact that addresses were posted is also wrong, especially because the situation has not only brought in people such as Al Sharpton, but also has brought in some white supremicists; so much tension has been building that to add in addresses could potentially be setting up another violent crime. People should be prosecuted somehow, along the lines of right to privacy or maybe threatening.

Jbyko10 said...

I will have to agree with most of the posts this week. I believe that the addition of Mukasey will be a great thing. He has a lot of experience. It will change how the Justice Department is viewed and ran. He has a very strong reputation. He will do what he thinks is right, and he will not just give up with people who think otherwise. I agree with alex when he said that He will not diminish civil rights.

Erica C said...

In response to Joanna:

I'm glad you posted this. The white teenagers who performed the hate crimes should be punished. If the white teenagers are not punished, it is as if the school board and justice department are saying that hate crimes are acceptable. Obviously, threats and intimidation are not okay by any means; all involved in the case should be made well aware of that.

ericag said...

In reponse of Joanna:

I also agree with everyone white teenagers need to be prosecuted for these hate crimes. These crimes were horribly wrong and teenagers are too old to not be prosecuted for something so moral wrong.

JamieW said...

This blog sometimes drives me nuts. Especially when you write a nice long comment just to have it get deleted. That makes me sad :-(
So I'm not very enthusiastic anymore.
Joanna- it was great that you posted this.
I truly believe that the hate crimes performed were horrible and those involved SHOULD get prosecuted. There is no reason for such behavior. They are ADULTS...they should know better than to do such mean and nasty things.

shannond said...

The Justice Department will no doubt change if the Senate approves Judge Mukasey. Clearly, he has proven himself to the jury if he thinks opposite of them on a topic. He ensures fairness in a trial and gives all cases a lot of thought. If Judge Mukasey is approved by the Senate, he might show just a little less prudence than the other judges in handling the jury and will speak out for what he believes is right.

As for the hate crimes, I believe that Judge Mukasey would speak his mind to these high school students about what they did. In all fairness, I believe he would prosecute them. We need more people like Judge Mukasey in the Justice Department.

BrookeS said...

I believe the confirmation of Judge Mukasey is change needed in the Justice department. During crucial times, such as these, our country needs a leader who will bring criminals to justice and setting the law straight. On the basis of civil rights, I do not believe these rights will be diminished; if anything, strengthened.

MorganJ said...

To be honest, I am not positive if Judge Mukasey’s appointment to the Justice Department will be beneficial or harmful. In one light, his years of experience can bring many new views to the Justice Department; on the other hand, his very independent views on issues may cause more problems and solutions.

As I see it, we already have a prime example of an independent thinker in our government-George W. Bush. He has made many decisions with only his opinion to back them up, look where that got us!

On the issue of civil rights, I believe that if Mukasey is our next Attorney General, we may be in danger of loosing some of our rights. As he has demonstrated in past cases, he has no problem with suspending civil rights under certain circumstances. Although these cases were ones of terrorism, who's to say that they will not apply to non-terrorist cases in the future?

Finally, I want to address one comment that stated, “How can one man make such a huge change, with something like civil rights?" Has no one heard of a man by the name of Adolf Hitler?

JamieW said...

In response to Morgan's comment about another comment (yikes) I think what the person was trying to say is how can one man change civil rights [laws here in America nowadays] Sure Hitler deprived people of civil rights but no one really had a say in what went on with him due to the fact he was a dictator and all. It'd be unlikely for one man's opinion to diminish something like civil rights so quickly.

Alex the Great said...

i believe that it is necessary for a judge to stand up for what he believes in. if he doesnt have the moral fiber to stand up for himself, how can he stand up for others who cant defend themselves.

aly mac said...

I think that confirming Judge Muskasey to the Justice Department would be the right thing at this time. Judge Muskasey would not bring a significant change to the civil rights movement, but his strong background and experience would make him an ideal attorney general for our country at this time. He definetely is more qualified then his predecessor Alberto Gonzales, which makes him a strong candidate to handle the complex terroism and illegal immigrant situation while balancing the social and civil rights issues which go with enforcing the legal changes necessary to assure safety within our country. This is a very complex situation which requires a careful balance between protecting our country from evil outside influences while balancing the basic civil liberties protected by our constitition. I believe his experience and knowledge will make him a good AG at this time.