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The Rule of Law, Due Process, and Access to Justice in Our Time

Judge James Robart of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

In the past week, U.S. District Senior Judge James Robart of Seattle issued a nationwide restraining order blocking the travel ban put in place by President Trump.

Trump’s ban, created through an executive order, sought to block people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.

The President reacted to Judge Robart’s decision by tweeting “…the opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”

All of us at the law firm of RisCassi & Davis passionately believe in the rule of law, due process and access to justice. And we fervently believe in a judiciary that is independent and free from political influence.

In the past 24 hours, our colleagues in the American College of Trial Lawyers, The American Board of Trial Advocates, and the American Bar Association have spoken out strongly against President Trump’s attack on Judge Robart. We strongly agree with all three statements and offer excerpts of each below.

The American College of Trial Lawyers:

The American College of Trial Lawyers, a non-political organization composed of the leading trial lawyers in the United States—Republicans and Democrats, plaintiffs’ lawyers and defense lawyers, all selected without regard to political views—today issues a statement condemning the recent public statements by President Trump regarding Federal Judge James L. Robart. The College considers such attacks as a direct assault on judicial independence, the backbone of our constitutional democracy.

The statement was made by Bartholomew J. Dalton, President of The American College of Trial Lawyers, on behalf of the College and its 5,900 Fellows.

Dalton said, “The President used inappropriate and insulting language because he did not agree with Judge Robart’s ruling. The President stated, ‘The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned.’ Judge Robart is not a ‘so-called judge’ but a federal judge who was appointed by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate. It is wrong for the Chief Executive of the Executive Branch to demean a member of the judiciary with such language. This (action) undermines judicial independence which is the backbone to our constitutional democracy.” The President has the right to disagree with a judicial opinion and to seek legal means to overturn it on appeal; but ad hominem and disparaging personal attacks on an individual judge are an affront to the fundamental principle of judicial independence that cannot be ignored.

The American Board of Trial Advocates:

Dulin Kelly, ABOTA national president, said President Trump’s comments about Judge Robart “lack dignity and civility, and the remarks were disrespectful to the judge, the bench and the judicial branch of our government.”

Mr. Kelly said, “It is a fundamental principle of our democracy that we are to be governed and served by three co-equal branches of government. The judicial branch is an indispensable part of this historic system of checks and balances our founding fathers thought to be so precious and which has served us so well for more than two centuries.”

“While it is the right of every American to freely express opinions, such expressions should still be respectfully tempered, especially when such expressions come from our president,” Mr. Kelly added. “Respect for our institutions and adherence to the rule of law are fundamental privileges we enjoy as Americans.”

Mr. Kelly pointed out that before taking the bench as judge of a United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, Judge James Robart was a highly skilled, preeminent trial lawyer in Seattle, Washington. He received a unanimous “well qualified” rating from the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary during the nomination process for the federal bench. His nomination was made by President George W. Bush and submitted to the United States Senate for confirmation hearings. After the Senate’s investigation and hearings were concluded, the Senate voted 99-0 for confirmation. Judge Robart became a federal judge in 2004.

The American Bar Association:

This morning, American Bar Association President Linda A. Klein made this statement regarding the President’s actions:

“…What defines us (as an organization)? Our commitment to the rule of law, due process, and access to justice. With this foundation, our nation has weathered every crisis… Make no mistake. Personal attacks on judges are attacks on our Constitution. The independence of the judiciary is not up for negotiation. For a nation based on the rule of law, nothing is more important than the impartiality and integrity of our court system. A fair and impartial judiciary is a proud hallmark of our democracy. It is vital that our judiciary remain independent and free from political pressure, independent from political parties, independent from Congress and independent from the President of the United States himself. There are no “so-called judges” in America…”

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