Judges under attack by grandstanding politicians (Opinion)
You've probably heard by now about the New Jersey Family Court judges under fire for comments made in court during two rape cases. Certainly hearing the comments sends a shiver up your spine as it's natural to have an emotional reaction for the victims. That said, there is context to everything said in the court room and pulling a comment out of hours of discussion may not present an appropriate picture.
Of course context is no concern for New Jersey politicians, including the Senate President, the Assembly speaker, Senator Declan O'Scanlon and Senator Kristin Corrado. O'Scanlon for his part said something that may be as concerning as what the judges said. He called into the afternoon show and basically said we don't need process here because we know what the judges said.
Even Governor Murphy weighed in and said we have a process to follow if the judges did something wrong. Now Murphy is a hypocrite for sure, as he was quick to want Supreme Court Justice Bret Kavanaugh to drop out of the process because of accusations without evidence, but that said, at least he got this one right.
Corrado doubled down on her call for sexual assault case training for all judges and lawyers. Of course this presumes guilt on the part of the judges without hearing their side. Without hearing the full context of the statement. Without knowing what conclusions they were weighing during the trial. This is a threat to an independent judiciary.
People have argued for years in Jersey that judges should not be elected as they are in other states because people could influence judicial decisions. You mean exactly what the pols are doing now? Irresponsible news reporting failing to even broach the subject of context designed for click bait by only showing one side and essentially drawing a conclusion of guilt for the judges. Well not all of us are influenced by emotion. Some of us want to hear all sides and certainly value the independence of the judiciary.
My friend Mike Koribanics joined me on Friday to shed some much needed balance to the conversation. Mike served as a prosecutor for the Hudson County Sex Crimes Unit, now he's a successful criminal defense attorney who's been practicing for 30 years. His concern about Senator O'Scanlon's 'dangerous' comments are about protecting the independence of judges so they can go through the entire process, taking ALL PERTINENT FACTS into account before making decisions. Whether teens should be tried as adults, whether there were mitigating circumstances involved, how aggressive was a particular assault, etc.
Rape cases are not black and white. People are not simply guilty because they've been accused. We literally just went through this nonsense of vilifying people accused without offering any balance, Kavanaugh and yes, Al Alvarez.
Listen, I'm a father of a daughter. I certainly get the sensitivity of hearing what sounds like a dismissal of a legitimate rape victim. I'm also the father of a son and worry about the level of false accusations that seem to be increasing. Either way, we live in a country where everyone has an opportunity to be heard. And one of the safeguards for our "innocent until proven guilty" legal system is the independence of the judiciary and the due process of removing a judge who has violated someone's rights and/or the law.
The voice of reason can also be heard from the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey. They issued a strong statement supporting the independence of the judiciary.
We need to protect the process for the sake of all of us. We also need to condemn knee-jerk politicians like Corrado, O'Scanlon, Sweeney and Coughlin who are willing to sacrifice your due process in order to grab a headline.
Bill Spadea is on the air weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m., talkin’ Jersey, taking your calls at 1-800-283-1015. Tweet him @NJ1015 or @BillSpadea. The opinions expressed here are solely those of Bill Spadea.
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