There is a bedrock principle of ethical behavior that requires avoiding conflicts of interest. If someone serves on a board or commission, for example, and a pending case has been brought by a relative or close friend, we expect that person to recuse–to abstain from participation in the decision.
When the issue is judicial behavior, it is even more important to avoid even the appearance of bias or impropriety, because the legitimacy and effectiveness of the judicial system depends upon public confidence in the probity and disinterestedness of judges.
One of the (multitude of) problems with Trump’s nomination of unqualified judicial candidates that Mitch McConnell then rams through the confirmation process is that ethical behavior is one of the qualifications a number of them appear to lack.
Legal experts are scratching their heads after a federal judge appointed by President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday he is delaying handing down his decision in a Trump tax returns case until other federal judges hand down their decisions in other Trump cases. That judge is a former Trump transition team volunteer and has donated to the Trump campaign.
District Judge Trevor McFadden of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia announced he will hold up his ruling in a case brought by the House Ways and Means Committee against the U.S. Treasury Dept. The case involves gaining access to six years of Trump’s tax returns. The law clearly says the IRS “shall” hand them over to Congress. The Trump administration says Congress has no right to investigate.
This is not a case where legal or factual complexities require time-consuming analysis. This is a case in which a judge has a blatant conflict of interest, and should have recused himself.
Judge McFadden has already exhibited bias in his handling of the case, which was originally brought last August. According to Politico, he denied House Democrats’ request to expedite consideration of the case as well as their request to rule on its merits, despite the fact that this would seem to be a textbook case for summary judgment.
Now, he has informed the parties that he will not rule on the matter until the court that is considering a challenge to the subpoena of former White House lawyer Don McGahn has ruled. He has not offered an explanation for that delay, nor indicated what the McGahn case has to do with the litigation before him–undoubtedly because (as lawyers and legal commentators have noted) there is simply no connection between the issues in the two cases.
The only explanation that makes sense is that Judge McFadden is trying to help the President avoid disclosure of his taxes. Since the law is clear and unambiguous– a ruling in favor of Trump would be a too-obvious gift to a favored litigant–he is apparently trying to avoid ruling at all until after the election.
The Executive Editor of Above the Law summed it up as a “Trump judge trying to look for a way to prop up Trump’s terrible arguments without looking like he’s a Trump judge.”
It is no longer possible to ignore the fact that Trump, Barr, Pence, Pompeo and others in the administration are deeply corrupt. We are just beginning to realize just how much Trump’s terrible judicial choices have added to the rot and corruption.
And according to the Washington Post, one in every four circuit court judges is now a Trump appointee …