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August 08, 2019

Annual 2019: Panel to address ‘so-called judges,’ other attacks on judicial independence

On Feb. 4, 2017, James Robart became a “so-called judge” – at least in the eyes of President Donald Trump.

A day earlier, Robart – a U.S. District Court judge based in Seattle – issued an important ruling, granting a temporary restraining order against Trump’s “travel ban.”

The next day, at 5 a.m., Trump angrily shot back on Twitter: “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”

Public reaction was fierce. Critics accused the president of undermining the judiciary. Two days after the tweet, then American Bar Association President Linda Klein declared in remarks at the ABA House of Delegates meeting, “There are no ‘so-called judges’ in America. There are simply judges – fair and impartial. And we must keep it that way.”

Now, Robart and five other judges and justices will discuss threats to judicial independence at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The program – “Undermining the Courts: The Consequences for American Democracy” – will be Friday, Aug. 9 at 3:30 p.m. at the Hotel Nikko.

The ninth annual Symposium on the Independence of the Judiciary will be presented by the ABA Standing Committee on the American Judicial System and the National Judicial College.

The nonpartisan program will bring together major figures in the judiciary and the news media to discuss recent attacks on judicial independence and freedom of the press and potential consequences for American democracy.

The panel will include three chief justices of state supreme courts. Panelists will be:

  • Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, California Supreme Court
  • Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Ohio Supreme Court
  • Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, Kansas Supreme Court
  • Justice Debra Stephens, Washington Supreme Court
  • Senior U.S. District Court Judge James Robart, Western District of Washington
  • Retired U.S. District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, Southern District of New York

The panel will be moderated by Manuel “Manny” Garcia, ethics and standards editor for the USA Today network.

ABA President Bob Carlson and National Judicial College President Benes Aldana – former chief trial judge for the U.S. Coast Guard – will welcome attendees. The program is co-sponsored by the ABA Judicial Division, Section of Litigation and Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section.