NEWPORT BEACH, CALIFORNIA (September 28, 2023) - The American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL) condemns the growing number of threats and invective made against judges in recent years. In the last week alone, two troubling examples have received considerable attention.
In the first, California Governor Gavin Newsom attacked U.S. District Roger T. Benitez following the Court’s decision in Duncan v. Bonta, in which Judge Benitez declared a California statute prohibiting the possession and use of firearm magazines holding more than ten rounds to be unconstitutional. In a tweet posted on September 22, Governor Newsom characterized Judge Benitez as “an extremist, right-wing zealot with no regard to human life” and suggested that he and other federal judges are “NRA-owned.”
In the second incident, Donald Trump, former president of the United States, attacked New York State Judge Arthur F. Engoron following the Court’s decision granting partial summary judgment against Mr. Trump and other defendants in the New York State Attorney General’s civil lawsuit alleging that Mr. Trump and others committed fraud by submitting false and misleading financial statements. In a message posted on Truth Social on September 26, Mr. Trump characterized Judge Engoron as “a DERANGED New York State Judge, doing the bidding of a completely biased and corrupt ‘Prosecutor’,” “a highly politicized Democrat judge,” and “Corrupt.”
The College recognizes that decisions from our courts may incite strong reactions and criticisms. Every citizen has a right to disagree with a decision and challenge it for its conclusions, soundness and potential consequences, but statements by public figures such as those by Governor Newsom and Mr. Trump that intend intimidation of a judge because of a given ruling, that attack a judge on personal grounds, or contend, without basis, that a decision was influenced by a political party or lobby call into question the integrity and independence of our judicial system and place our democracy at risk. Any effort to diminish the independence of the decision-making process undermines a vital element of our judicial system.
To read the entire press release, click here.