Incredible: Trump’s Lawyers Try An Even More Unethical Judicial Recusal Argument Than The One Democrats Are Using Against Justice Thomas

Where does Donald Trump find his ridiculous lawyers? Did they get degrees by sending in applications from match book covers or comic books like the one above?

Trump attorneys Alina Habba and Peter Ticktin want U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks to recuse himself from Trump’s lawsuit accusing Hillary Clinton of being part of a conspiracy casting his 2016 campaign as colluding with Russia (which, of course, she was). Their motion, filed this week argues that Middlebrooks could be biased because Hillary’s husband selected him for the court in 1997.

Their motion says in part,

“There is no question that Judge’s Middlebrooks’ impartiality would be questioned by a disinterested observer, fully informed of the facts, due to Judge’s relationship with the Defendant, either, individually, or by the very nature of his appointment to the Federal Bench, by the Defendant’s husband. The most important issue is not simply that justice must be done, but also that justice must appear to be done. This could not be more important in a case like the above styled cause, where wrongs in regard to a presidential election are to be redressed.

Utter crap, to put it in technical terms. If the mere fact that a judge was appointed by a President with a theoretical interests in the outcome of a case was sufficient to justify a recusal, then every federal judge would have to recuse every time a partisan question came before him or her. The motion panders to the false attacks on judges’ integrity mostly carried out of late by Democrats, who increasingly argue that federal judges see themselves as permanent allies of the individuals who appoint them and the parties that supported those appointments.

Far from there being “no question” about a conflict, there is really no question that the standard the motion proposes is unworkable, not to mention insulting to the judiciary.

I thought Trump’s much maligned argument that a judge of Mexican heritage couldn’t rule fairly on his case because of earlier Trump’s statements about illegal Mexican immigrants was ignorant, but this is worse.

Moreover, the theory behind the recusal demand would be almost certain to boomerang against Trump himself! Several matters involving the former POTUS are likely to come before the Supreme Court; if his lawyers prevailed on their crack-brained theory, it would create a precedent suggesting that the three Justices he appointed would have to recuse in cases where his interests are involved.

None of those jurists are Donald Trump’s friends (or spouses); there is no reason to assume they feel any bias, loyalty or affection toward him at all.

10 thoughts on “Incredible: Trump’s Lawyers Try An Even More Unethical Judicial Recusal Argument Than The One Democrats Are Using Against Justice Thomas

  1. My understanding is that out in Las Vegas, the term for a wealthy and not particularly talented gambler is a “whale.” Casinos love them, because they’re great for the bottom line.

    Is there a comparable term among attorneys? I’ve got to believe there are several.

  2. I’m not a lawyer, so I get to ask the stupid questions!

    “Utter crap, to put it in technical terms. If the mere fact that a judge was appointed by a President with a theoretical interests in the outcome of a case was sufficient to justify a recusal, then every federal judge would have to recuse every time a partisan question came before him or her.”

    Is this a convenient fiction, or a statement of fact?

    Because “Her husband gave you your job. You might be less willing to put his wife in prison” seems like a facially bona fide concern. Mitigated, perhaps by necessity: Like you said, the courts would have a hard time functioning if they couldn’t have judges make a ruling on the family of the president that tapped them.

    • I think it’s a fact that a line has to be drawn to keep inferred conflicts from making dispute resolution impossible. In reality, judges can be petty, biased, and untrustworthy, but as long as they are judges, we have to give them the benefit of the doubt. Trump wasn’t exactly wrong that a judge of Mexican descent who believed the false reporting on his initial attack on Mexican illegal immigration might have a bias against him, just as an Irish-American judge might have a bias toward a party from the Emerald Isle. But we just can’t assume that without hard evidence. It the judge in thsi case had said publicly, “I will always have a debt to Bill Clinton and his family for giving me this job,” then the recusal argument would have a valid basis.

  3. Humble Talent isn’t the only one who’s not a lawyer & sees a problem with a Clinton nominated judge ruling on a case about the Clintons. I have a great deal of bias regarding Bill & Hillary; I see them as a team, where one spouse is just as dirty as the other.
    Where does one draw the line for recusal? This instance – where a former 1st Lady who pursued greater and greater power, having lost an election to (her victim) Trump and went on to write two books to attempt to cushion the blow to her ego, who recently wept on television while reading her victory speech – is unlikely to come before the court ever again. I think that it would be prudent to examine Middlebrooks’ relationship to the Clintons before & after his nomination.
    With HRC’s ambitions during her husband’s presidency, she may have even selected Judge Middlebrooks through her husband.
    I agree that Bias Make You Stupid, but I’m not seeing any future parallels to have this recusal set precedent.
    Could this fall into the category of ‘zealous representation?’ I believe it was Justice Kagan who recently stated that SC opinions should also weigh the potential impact to society; if mob rule wasn’t considered in the opinions, it would diminish the institute in the eyes of the public. The courts are political now.

    • You don’t? If we’ll say that a judge can’t rule on any matter that will affect the family of the official who appointed the judge, then the conflict is obviously greater when the interested party is the appointing official himself.

      The courts aren’t political; the parties are trying to bully them by claiming they’re political. All the more reason to resist the extension of the conflict definition for judges.

      • Michael Flynn would like a word.
        My father was the most cynical person I’ve ever known, especially regarding politics. He passed in August last year, had voted for Trump both times, and thought I was being too cynical when I claimed – in July 2021 – double-digit inflation was coming.
        He was a Major in the USMC (retired); I was grateful that he died the day before a suicide bomber killed 13 US servicemen at Kabul airport.

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