A federal judge has unleashed a diatribe against President Trump, calling him a “criminal,” in statements that are being seen as violations of ethics rules for the judiciary.
It was the Associated Press whose reporter interviewed Robert Pratt, a federal judge in the Southern District of Iowa who now is on senior status and carries a reduced workload.
Pratt claimed, “It’s not surprising that a criminal like Trump pardons other criminals. But apparently to get a pardon, one has to be either a Republican, a convicted child murderer or a turkey.”
The report explained, “Pratt was referring to pardons Trump granted to his former campaign aides convicted during the special counsel’s Russia inquiry, former GOP congressmen who committed crimes, and security contractors convicted of killing innocent civilians in Iraq. Trump also pardons turkeys — this year two from Iowa — annually before Thanksgiving.”
Pratt, appointed to the bench by Bill Clinton in 1997, moved to a partial workload in 2012, and was responding to a question about pardons granted to two former aides for Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign, Jesse Benton and John Tate.
There were convicted for a scheme related to the Iowa caucuses that also involved others, including state Sen. Kent Sorenson.
The report noted Pratt had a personal role in the situation, overseeing a trial for Sorenson, who reportedly got $73,000 in payments in exchange for Sorenson’s endorsement of Paul.
Sorenson “made news when he defected as Michele Bachmann’s campaign chairman to endorse Paul days before the 2012 caucuses,” the report said.
Pratt eventually sentenced Sorenson to 15 months in prison even though prosecutors recommended probation.
However, constitutional expert Jonathan Turley, a lawyer, legal scholar, commentator and professor at the George Washington University Law School, wrote that the comments from Pratt were “troubling.”
“Judge Pratt gave an interview slamming the pardons in a departure from judicial ethics rules barring jurists from engaging in such political commentary,” he wrote.
He explained Pratt “dispensed with any pretense of any judicial function in airing his grievances.”
But, he explained, Pratt remains subject to the Code of Judicial Ethics, which, in part, states that a judge shall avoid even “the appearance of impropriety.”
Further, those rules demand, “A judge or candidate for judicial office shall not engage in political or campaign activity that is inconsistent with the independence, integrity, or impartiality of the judiciary.”
His verdict on the judge? “It is a troubling dismissal of the long-standing avoidance of such commentary by judges to preserve judicial impartiality.”
And making it even worse, Turley noted, was that Pratt was involved in Sorenson’s case, including the odd sentence he imposed.
“His sentencing was troubling for many of us in the defense bar because the recommendation for probation was consistent with past cooperation cases. Pratt’s sentence was not,” he wrote.
He explained, bluntly, “Pratt has not left the bench. He is still hearing cases while engaging in political commentary. … Republicans and even Trump associates could well come before Pratt in future cases — facing a jurist who gives public interviews to denounce Trump as a criminal.”
The AP report did not address concerns about Pratt’s apparent departure from judicial ethics standards.
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