Trump’s Not The Only One Undermining the Rule of Law

One of the many reasons Trump’s pardon of Arpaio was so appalling was the nature of Arpaio’s behavior during the years he was sheriff. Trump’s pardon essentially endorsed the abuse of power.

Every time a public official–cloaked in the authority of the state–engages in self-serving, corrupt or unlawful behaviors, government legitimacy suffers. The most central principle of the rule of law is that no one is above it; the rules apply equally to the governed and those who do the governing.

Of course, if we don’t know what government officials are doing, we can’t enforce the rules.

One of the reasons our Constitution explicitly protects freedom of the press is because the press acts as a “watchdog,” ferreting out official misconduct. When Trump attacks unflattering coverage as “Fake News,” when Arpaio criticizes the press for pointing out that his actions are racist, they are attempting to delegitimize a critical element of Constitutional accountability.

Mother Jones recently provided an excellent example of how the system is supposed to work.  The magazine investigated and uncovered a Judge’s conflict of interest in the aftermath of an immigration raid that netted 400 undocumented workers. As the article notes, such workers are

usually charged with civil violations and then deported. But most of these defendants, shackled and dragging chains behind them, were charged with criminal fraud for using falsified work documents or Social Security numbers. About 270 people were sentenced to five months in federal prison, in a process that one witness described as a “judicial assembly line.”

Overseeing the process was Judge Linda R. Reade, the chief judge of the Northern District of Iowa… The incident sparked allegations of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct and led to congressional hearings. Erik Camayd-Freixas, an interpreter who had worked at the Waterloo proceedings, testified that most of the Spanish-speaking defendants had been pressured to plead guilty…

Yet amid the national attention, one fact didn’t make the news: Before and after the raid, Reade’s husband owned stock in two private prison companies, and he bought additional prison stock five days before the raid, according to Reade’s financial disclosure forms. Ethics experts say these investments were inappropriate and may have violated the Code of Conduct for United States Judges.

The subsequent discovery of emails and memos from Immigration and Customs Enforcement showed that in the months leading up to the raid, Judge Reade had repeatedly met with immigration officials and federal prosecutors. She had also attended a meeting with officials from the US Attorney’s Office where “parties discussed an overview of charging strategies,” according to ICE memoranda. In those meeting she learned that about 700 arrests were anticipated.

I’ve previously argued that prisons should never be privatized. Not only is incarceration an inherently governmental function, but the private prison industry lobbies (often successfully) for counterproductive public policies. Currently, CCA and Geo, the two largest prison companies, are actively resisting criminal justice reforms and the decriminalization of marijuana. The Mother Jones article points to a less-recognized danger–public officials succumbing to the temptation to “enhance” the value of their investments.

Today, dozens of people who were sentenced by Reade while her husband owned prison stock remain behind bars. According to the US Sentencing Commission, the Northern District of Iowa, where Reade sits, sends a significantly higher proportion of defendants to prison, and with longer sentences, than the national average.

Can we spell “appearance of impropriety”?

 

11 thoughts on “Trump’s Not The Only One Undermining the Rule of Law

  1. Perhaps it is time for one and all to watch again the movie Judgement at Nuremberg. At the heart of that movie the Germans on trial were the judges who twisted the law for evil and their own gain. Their defense attorney used false equivalency over and over again to confuse the matter. The locals tried to excuse themselves from complicity although they were guilty by doing nothing to stop the injustice.

    What has been happening… is happening, in this country for years now, is nothing less than the destruction of the rule of law and replacing it with a dictatorship by Nazi minded Republicans.

  2. Watching “Judgement at Nuremberg” should be accompanied by watching the made for TV movie, “Andersonville”. The rules and format for the Nuremberg trials were based on the trial by Union prisoners in Andersonville prison to try a group of Union prisoners who preyed on other Union prisoners (sounds like today’s government) and was allowed by the Confederate General, not an American but a Dutchman, with no interference by the Confederate guards. The only execution of a Confederate after the Civil War ended was that Dutchman who was court martialed and hanged for allowing the deplorable conditions in the prison.

    I mention that dark chapter in our history to reach this question; how do we force the Republican Congress to begin the trials against this Republican government when so many of them are “…Undermining the Rule of Law” in this country? Where would we begin to sort them out? Who could we trust to do the sorting? You might also want to watch the TV movie, “The Execution of Private Slovic”; the only American member of the military to be executed for desertion during WWII. Pvt. Slovic was a barely above retarded young man drafted into the army, separated from his troop during battle and wandered through the battlefields till he found an American group of soldiers to explain he was lost. His situation was immediately reported to officers. He was imprisoned, court martialed and executed as a deserter. He was a scapegoat as was the Dutch General from Andersonville prison to give the appearance this government was “doing something”.

    We are witnessing the current government busily “doing something” to appear they are doing their jobs as they simply pass along the “deconstruction” of democracy and our government by Trump and his White House appointees – and family members – as they empty our tax base supporting their personal pleasures.

    “Can we spell “appearance of impropriety”?”

    Should we be spelling “criminal activity”?

  3. It’s interesting that Sheriff Joe had to be charged with contempt of court, because it is not a criminal offense to violate the Constitution.

  4. Reade and the sheriff should share a prison cell and discuss their improprieties. Trump’s “pardon” compounds the felony both directly and indirectly. Democracy is the loser, and I don’t know how many more hits democracy can take before it founders due to authoritarian controls.

  5. Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow” pointed significant blame on Bill Clinton for signing laws which eventually incarcerated a large number of black prisoners into the private prison industry.

    As she pointed out, “You know the media is doing a great job of lying to the people because the black community supported Hillary Clinton.”

    Kind of like how Sheila captured from the Mother Jones article: “Yet amid the national attention, one fact didn’t make the news…”

    Trump is right, but for all the wrong reasons. Our media is fake or propaganda. Thankfully, for those who’ve discovered Noam Chomsky’s, “Propaganda Model”, we know why the media behaves the way it does. It has the power but doesn’t use it as intended. Like the private prison industry, it’s a for profit business which forces it to comply with the wishes of advertisers. 😉

  6. I used to believe democracy was pretty robust. Mistakes were made but generally progress appeared at a pretty reliable rate and the good guys outnumbered the bad almost always. We were on average bright and informed enough to separate the wheat from the chaff and enough patriotic people made it to the polls to keep things on an even keel.

    Now what?

    Are there knobs that can be adjusted to re-tune the system back to functional? It’s been revealed that the system is not idiot proof and one disingenuous person can destroy the unwritten norms that allowed the system to function.

    If democracy doesn’t work, what does?

    I probably won’t get to know.

  7. Todd; when I sit in front of my big screen TV and actually watch Trump’s ugly and lying rants coming directly out of HIS mouth, read his ridiculous Tweets and see how he incites people at his preemptive 2020 campaign rallies…then watch him screech or Tweet “fake news, fake news”, am I to believe Donald Trump or my lying eyes?

    I have watched him on the national news for more than 30 years with his marriages, divorces, bankruptcies, getting more family money to start new businesses, sexual affairs, ripping off and destroying small businesses and using highly paid attorneys in court to order he pay only 30 cents on the dollar IF he pays at all. I watched him throughout 2015 and 2016 with his denigrating President Obama at almost every rally and speech while highly praising Vladimar Putin, including the day he asked the Russians to find Hillary’s 30,000 E-mails and publicize them, and now we are supposed to believe he had no connection to the Russians?

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