Bad behavior

Federal judges hold their offices for life, subject only to the constitutional requirement of “good behavior.” Tom Delay created a firestorm when he invoked the constitutional requirement in connection with the Terri Schiavo case, but there you have it. Federal judges are among the most powerful men and women in the country, and the powers that they wield are subject to abuse.
Judges are not to engage in political activity, period. For a federal judge in his judicial capacity to render irrelevant editorial criticism of the president’s conduct as commander in chief is an extraordinary abuse of office. Yet federal judge John Coughenour did so during his sentencing of millenium bomber Ahmed Ressam to a 22-year prison term yesterday (13 years short of the sentence sought by the government — with credit for five years in custody, he may be free in 14 years): “Ressam judge decries U.S. tactics.”
It is almost beside the point — almost, but not entirely — that the judge’s comments were stupidly ignorant of the most basic legal distinctions. Given the judge’s poor use of his own powers in sentencing a man who sought to kill thousands of Americans, the judge should worry less about the president’s use of his constitutional powers and more about his own. And he should leave the editorials to the folks with egos equally as large as his in the fourth branch.


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