Beryl Howell is the judge who signed off on Robert Mueller’s request to convene a Washington, D.C. grand jury, and who apparently will continue to “umpire” disputes over the grand jury’s work (which, in reality, is Mueller’s work). As I discussed earlier today, Howell served for ten years as a staffer for Sen. Patrick Leahy, the hyper-partisan leftist.
An unnamed Washington lobbyist assured the Daily Beast that Judge Howell has been a”very straight-arrow as a judge.” He compared her to Robert Mueller — the quintessential alleged straight shooter, now that James Comey has been discredited.
If you’re a conservative and you hear a pillar of the Washington legal community described as a straight shooter, your best response is to duck.
With this in mind, let’s look at a few of the things I’ve learned today about Beryl Howell’s actions as a federal judge. I’ll exclude rumors unless and until they are corroborated.
Item: Judge Howell presided over a trial in which left-wing talk show host Ed Schultz was sued by a sound engineer for breach of an alleged partnership agreement. According to the Daily Caller, Howell showed blatant favoritism for Schultz and contempt for the plaintiff’s lead lawyer.
If so, it might have been because she ruled for Schultz in the first trial only to be reversed on appeal. In any event, one trial watcher reportedly expressed concern that Howell’s behavior would taint the jury’s ability to be fair, especially the impressionable younger jurors who may be influenced by her obvious hatred for the plaintiff’s lawyer.
Plaintiff did lose the case on retrial. In the appeal of that case, plaintiff argued, among things, that Judge Howell belittled plaintiff’s counsel as a Jacksonville, Florida attorney who does not understand the “highly educated, experienced, professional people [of] Washington, D.C.” According to the Daily Caller, Schultz’s lawyers acknowledged that Howell’s comments were “stern” (very probably a euphemism) but not grounds for reversal.
If the picture the Daily Caller paints is even close to accurate, Judge Howell is not a straight shooter.
Item: According to this report from PJ Media, Judge Howell left out the words “so help me God” from a naturalization ceremony. These words are part of the oath prescribed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations provides for a religious exemption from saying “so help me God.” When a petitioner or applicant for naturalization, by reason of religious training and belief (or individual interpretation thereof), or for other reasons of good conscience, cannot utter this phrase, the words “solemnly affirm” shall be substituted, and the oath shall be taken in such modified form.
However, again according to PJ Media, Judge Howell did not use the words “solemnly affirm” either. If she was going to exclude God, she should at least have used the alternative expression of solemnity.
Item: Speaking of immigrants, according to the same PJ Media article, Judge Howell rejected a challenge to Obama’s executive actions that would have provided work permits to undocumented immigrants who met certain requirements. As we all know, the Supreme Court later blocked this blatantly illegal order from taking effect.
Judge Howell’s ruling strongly suggests that, for her, left-wing ideology trumps law.
Item: Judge Howell sided with a liberal law professor who sued to obtain records regarding fences the federal government intends to build along portions of the Texas-Mexico border. “Revealing the identities of landowners in the wall’s planned construction site may shed light on the impact of indigenous communities, the disparate impact on lower-income minority communities, and the practices of private contractors,” she wrote (opinion here).
This ruling was clearly a victory for liberals, who have taken all kinds of actions to block implementation of the federal law requiring the building of fencing. This doesn’t mean Judge Howell’s ruling was wrong. Although the quotation above from Judge Howell seems lame, the issue is fairly complicated, and I haven’t had time to do the analysis necessary to reach a conclusion. However, I think it’s worth bringing the case to the attention of readers who are trying to get a handle on the judge who finds herself in a position, potentially, to do great harm to the U.S. president.
Such a judge needs to be a true straight shooter, not a Washington-issue one. Judge Howell does not even come across as the latter kind. She appears to be a doctrinaire liberal, just as one would expect a former Leahy staffer to be.
I live in the Washington, D.C. area. I know plenty of people around here who aren’t nearly as leftist this judge appears to be, but who despise President Trump. There’s a good chance Judge Howell relishes the chance to stick it to him.