Counterpoint: Judge Aquilina’s Showboat Performance Detracts from the Job of Justice

Counterpoint: Judge Aquilina’s Showboat Performance Detracts from the Job of Justice

Counterpoint: Judge Aquilina’s Showboat Performance Detracts from the Job of Justice

Everyone has heard by now about how Judge Rosemarie Aquilina really gave it to that disgusting pedophile and sexual abuser, Larry Nassar. Whoop whoop! Let him have it! 

Ugh, as they say in the self-righteous comment section of your personal Facebook news feed. Judge Aquilina’s personal editorial statements stole the show (that’s what we’re talking about isn’t it?), and to me, put the judiciary, professional women, and the justice system in a terrible light. The statements I am specifically horrified by? These:

The letter “tells me you still don’t get it,” Aquilina said, tossing the letter dismissively. “I wouldn’t send my dogs to you, sir,” she added.
A rather mild mocking statement, but the colorful illustration and flippant physical gesture really have no place in legal sentencing. But it gets better.

I want you to know, as much as it was my honor and privilege to hear the survivors, it is my honor and privilege to sentence you.

And this:

I have just signed your death warrant.

Oh, so judges delight in handing down extremely long sentences, and ones that bring death to defendants? Good to know.
And the coup de gras, said DURING the hearings:
“Our Constitution does not allow for cruel and unusual punishment,” she said. “If it did, I have to say, I might allow what he did to all of these beautiful souls — these young women in their childhood — I would allow someone or many people to do to him what he did to others.”
Great, a judge who has envisioned a person being raped as punishment. And gang raped at that. Just the image I want our judiciary to convey.
No. This judge is absolutely grandstanding, and she’s put it under the guise of being a tough advocate for victimized young women. Except, judges are not supposed be advocates of litigants – only advocates of a fair and impartial judicial system. Judge Aquilina just threw a cold bucket of ice water on that perception.
I vehemently object not to the sentence, but to the way Judge Aquilina handed it down. Whatever good she did in conducting the lengthy hearings and restricting Nassar’s own grandstanding behavior, by publicly denigrating and mocking Nassar “on behalf” of the victims, she dealt a hard blow to the public’s view of the system itself.
The legal system already deals with a perception of unfairness and corruption. Our worst political leaders are lawyers – who know how to manipulate the law to their advantage. They do the rest of us everyday lawyers no favors. When one has the power to enforce the law, she ought to be mindful of wielding such power in a sober and unbiased way. Do not gloat about it or take glee in figuratively slapping a defendant no matter how awful that person’s crimes are or even if the person shows no remorse. This is the foundation of our legal system – even the most reprehensible gets a fair hearing, but since Nassar is so terrible I guess it’s ok to rough him up with over the top rhetoric. Rhetoric that incidentally will give him at least one point on appeal.
No, Judge Aquilina is a showboat, and curiously, it seems she is no stranger to publicity. She just released a crime novel in December, has previously hosted her own radio show, and commented on the headlines from CNN during the hearings. So don’t tell me she doesn’t know exactly what’s she’s doing, as she goes on and on preemptively denying that she will not speak to the media unless a survivor is present with her.
Her interjection of personal thoughts during the hearing, and her meandering sentencing statement, inclusive of insults below the dignity of a judge and anecdotes from her personal life, did the judiciary no favors, and perpetuated the stereotype of an emotional woman scorned. This was a horrible display of what we should expect from our judges, but unfortunately things like this play all too well with an emotional public who everyday is more and more interested in retribution, retaliation, and looking for the next mob to join. Very disappointing. Ugh.



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  • Ward B says:

    I certainly agree.
    And so do the lawyers over at PowerLine Blog. Paul Mirengoff wrote something similar on their blog today.

    You can strip out the link if you want to. I just included it to make it easy for you to find the article if you are so inclined.

    • Jenny North says:

      Thanks for your comment and the link. My own first year law students also expressed disappointment with the way the judge handled this. I was gratified to see they already had a handle on professional ethical behavior.

  • Kate says:

    Clap, clap, clap.

    Yes. I couldn’t agree more.

  • Darleen Click says:

    Glad to know I’m not the only one who was disturbed by her diatribe.

  • Blackgriffin says:

    I wish more judges would speak the truth to these monsters.

  • GWB says:

    They do the rest of us everyday lawyers no favors.
    Like the old joke: Some large number of lawyers give the other 1% a bad name.

    And yes, it’s all about the feelz. Why I’ve always hated “hate crimes”*: which is actually scarier and more destructive to society? The guy who hates [insert group here] and kills or hurts someone, or the guy who doesn’t hate anyone specifically, but coldly picks out truly random targets to hurt or kill? One feels scarier. But the other one is much more dangerous.

    (* Besides equality under the law, that is.)

  • Alex says:

    Did the guy get a fair trial? My lawyer said my judge abused the system but wasn’t interested in an appeal. It was a fixed fee case in traffic court. The lawyer said the case would be dismissed because the charge was written under the wrong code. But the the little Napoleon in a robe sided with the claimant who rear-ended me after a hundred-foot skid on a dry four lane with no other traffic on our side. He said the case would move ahead under the correct code.

    What’s worse, grandstanding or choosing the winner? How common is this in lower profile cases?

    Did I mention I was driving a big truck at the time and the small, woman-owned company insurance rates were going to hike up the side of a mountain?

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