Federal judge slams Trump's attacks on judiciary

A federal judge on Wednesday criticized President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE’s repeated attacks on judges and legal decisions he dislikes, saying Trump has helped to undermine the principle of judicial independence and the public’s faith in the rule of law.

Senior Judge Paul Friedman of the U.S. District Court in D.C., a Clinton appointee, said the number of personal attacks against judges is on the rise in no small part because of Trump’s blistering criticism of unfavorable judicial outcomes.

”The current president of the United States is feeding right into this destructive narrative,” Friedman said in remarks delivered at the federal trial courthouse in Washington as part of an annual lecture series. “We are in uncharted territory."


“We are witnessing a chief executive who criticizes virtually every judicial decision that doesn’t go his way and denigrates judges who rule against him, sometimes in very personal terms,” Friedman continued. “He seems to view the courts and the justice system as obstacles to be attacked and undermined, not as a co-equal branch to be respected even when he disagrees with its decisions.”

Trump is not the only president to express frustration over controversial legal outcomes, or even to attack judges personally, Friedman said, drawing on several historical examples dating as far back as Thomas Jefferson’s feud with Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase.  

“And yet,” Friedman said, “what we are witnessing today and over the last few years is markedly different.”

Friedman noted that during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump impugned the motives of a federal judge who ruled against him in a case involving the now-defunct Trump University.

Then-candidate Trump said District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born and raised in Indiana, was biased against him because of his Mexican heritage, and the fact he was an Obama appointee.  

“Things only accelerated after the election,” Friedman said.

The judge noted that Trump had consistently railed against judges or decisions that sided against his administration over policies concerning immigration and the U.S. border with Mexico. Trump frequently cites the political leanings of the president who appointed a judge as evidence of bias.

“The reality is that when the Trump Administration has lost cases in the courts, it is not because of Clinton or Obama judges,” Friedman said, “but because of judges who are trying to follow the law and the Constitution.”