NYCLA CONDEMNS ATTACKS ON UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE SHIRA SCHEINDLIN
NEW YORK, JUNE 27, 2002– The New York County Lawyers’ Association has issued a Statement that the unfair personal attacks leveled against United States District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin for her decisions in the case of United States v. Awadallah are deplorable.
In Awadallah, Judge Scheindlin, in two separate opinions issued on April 30, 2002, granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss perjury charges and to suppress illegally obtained evidence, finding that his prolonged detention without any criminal charges against him could not be justified under existing law and that his arrest was based upon misrepresentations and omissions by the government.
Since rendering these decisions, Judge Scheindlin has been the subject of a number of personal attacks in both the print and broadcast media. A Wall Street Journal editorial on June 4 referred to Judge Scheindlin as “Osama’s Favorite Judge.” The obvious play on the fact that Mr. Awadallah’s first name, a common one in the Muslim world, is the same as America’s arch-enemy, deliberately insinuates that Judge Scheindlin has manifested some affinity for Osama Bin Laden. Such an insinuation is misleading and reckless in its disregard for truth. The editorial claimed that Judge Scheindlin’s “unwillingness to enforce the law” hinders the nation’s war on terrorism and then proceeded to use factual misrepresentation to attack Judge Scheindlin’s opinion.
A current events show on the Fox TV Network was even more pernicious in tone. Bill O’Reilly, host of “The O’Reilly Factor,” has repeatedly called for the impeachment of Judge Scheindlin, urging viewers to join in a national movement to pressure Congress to remove her from office, accusing her of “irresponsible leadership’” with “a long anti-government record.” Without any analysis or explanation of the legal issue that the judge was required to decide, this television personality asserted to a national audience that “Judge Scheindlin has to go.”
NYCLA fully supports the right of individuals and the press to comment on and criticize judicial rulings. However, the Association vehemently opposes the use of ad hominem attacks that only serve to lower the level of public discourse and understanding of important issues and which undermine the independence of the judiciary, which is our country’s most important bulwark against bureaucratic excesses and illegal incursions upon individual rights.
The full text of the Statement is available on NYCLA’s website, www.nycla.org.
The New York County Lawyers’ Association was founded 94 years ago as the first major bar association in the country that admitted members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion or gender. Since its inception, NYCLA has pioneered some of the most far-reaching and tangible reforms in American jurisprudence and has continuously played an active role in legal developments and public policy.