To the Editor (of the New York Post)
By Gerald Walpin
On December 4, 2015, your editorial headline labeled Brooklyn Federal Judge Frederic Block as a “lunatic.” On December 10, Democrat Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid used the label “racist” to describe a question asked in Court by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Both uses of personal defamatory words against members of our country’s judiciary are a great disservice to our judiciary – the third branch of our government, defending and upholding the United States Constitution, including the rights of all individuals.
Both the Post and Reid have the right to criticize any judge’s ruling and any judge’s question in court. The First Amendment even protects the use of the personally disparaging words “lunatic” and “racist.” But, I would have hoped that better judgment would have avoided both words. A judge is not a “lunatic” if he effectively frees a criminal because the Bill of Rights mandated the judge suppress unconstitutionally obtained evidence. Even if he were wrong in his ruling, the response is not to label him “lunatic,” but to show he was wrong, and for the prosecutor to appeal.
Nor is a Justice a “racist” for asking an appropriate question: does giving a preference to Blacks through affirmative action necessarily benefit all beneficiaries? One has the right not to agree with the object of the question, but it is the Justice’s duty to pose questions that are difficult and even politically incorrect.
A judge, unlike the media and politicians, has no ready means to defend himself. He cannot issue a statement or call a press conference. Attacks like these on individual judges metastasize into loss of regard for the entire judiciary, and serve as a deterrent against younger judges’ willingness to render unpopular decisions called for by the facts and law. Both results are contrary to the interests of all Americans who look upon the judiciary as the protector of our freedoms.
Editors’ Note: The author, a former president of the Federal Bar Council, submitted this letter to the New York Post but the newspaper did not publish it.