Attacks on Judges Must Not Be Normalized

Susan J. KohlmannI was pleased that The Hill reached out recently for reaction to Donald Trump’s latest attacks on judges, and that Marcy Kahn, the Chair of the City Bar’s Task Force on the Rule of Law, joined me in speaking with them. As someone who spent three decades as a judge, Marcy is a compelling voice on the topic.

Our society should have zero tolerance for such rhetoric coming from anyone, let alone a former president with followers who are known to be susceptible to acting on his words. After all, one of the findings of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol was the impact of Trump’s rhetoric on the events leading up to and that took place on that day.

It was thus no surprise that in the wake of Trump’s recent threats, Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over the hush-money case, received death threats against him and his family and the courthouse in which he sits has received bomb threats.

The effect of such rhetoric doesn’t stop with judges, but extends to prosecutors, court workers and jurors, and can chill the willingness of people to engage in these roles. If left unchecked, such attacks, over time, are likely to become a chronic threat to our justice system, and finally to the rule of law itself.

We have spoken out on these types of threats before, with regard to The Stress Test of the Rule of Law; the Indictment of Donald J. Trump; the Vital Importance of Judicial Security; Condemning Assassination of Former Wisconsin Judge John Roemer; and Comments by Elected and Appointed Officials that Denigrate or Threaten Judges. And we will continue to do so. We cannot become immune to such rhetoric. Rather we must express shock and outrage at each instance. Threats and attacks on judges, prosecutors, jurors and court workers must not be normalized.