Federal Judges Association Calls Emergency Meeting To Discuss DOJ Concerns
A national association of federal judges called an emergency meeting this week to address concerns related to President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr intervening in politically sensitive cases, according to USA Today.
The group “could not wait” for its conference this spring to discuss what is viewed as a crisis within the Justice Department, Philadelphia U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe, who heads the independent Federal Judges Association, told the publication on Monday.
“There are plenty of issues that we are concerned about,” she said. “We’ll talk all of this through.”
Rufe indicated that alarm bells went off last week after the president publicly criticized prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for his friend Roger Stone, who was convicted on several felony charges, and the Justice Department’s subsequent move to overrule them.
Stone’s recommended sentence was seven to nine years, after he “was found guilty in November of lying to the House Intelligence Committee and obstructing its investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.”
Four of the prosecutors on the case withdrew in protest after Barr intervened, with one quitting his job entirely.
The group of more than 1,000 federal jurists decided an emergency meeting was warranted.
Regarding Trump’s attack on the judge in Stone’s case, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, whom the president assailed as biased in favor of Democrats, Rufe said the association is “not inclined to get involved with an ongoing case”; however, she did express strong support for Jackson, USA Today reported.
Barr’s move to intervene in the Stone case also caused an uproar with former Justice Department officials last week, leading more than 2,000 of them to call for the attorney general’s resignation.
"Although there are times when political leadership appropriately weighs in on individual prosecutions, it is unheard of for the department’s top leaders to overrule line prosecutors, who are following established policies, in order to give preferential treatment to a close associate of the president, as Attorney General Barr did in the Stone case," they wrote in a letter.
The group of federal judges will meet “via a conference call involving 15 to 20 officers and members of the association's executive committee, Rufe said.”
She added that she is unsure whether or how the group might report the results of its meeting but said, "We just could not wait until April to discuss matters of this importance.”