ABOTA defends federal Judge James L. Robart from attacks by President Trump

Constitutional separation of powers requires judges to decide cases impartially without political pressure

DALLAS (Feb. 6, 2017) — The American Board of Trial Advocates, a non-partisan organization consisting of an equal balance of plaintiff and defense lawyers, opposes the direct and personal attacks made by President Donald J. Trump about U.S. District Senior Judge James L. Robart. ABOTA is dedicated to the preservation of a fair and impartial judiciary and the right to trial by jury. State and federal judges are accountable to the law, not to special interests or political pressure.

On Jan. 27, President Trump issued an executive order that suspended the entry of refugees to the United States. Judge Robart issued a temporary restraining order on Feb. 3 that immediately lifted the president’s executive order. After Judge Robart’s ruling, the Trump administration appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Through Twitter, the president referred to Judge Robart as “this so-called judge” and wrote that the ruling was “ridiculous and will be overturned!”

F. Dulin Kelly, ABOTA national president, said President Trump’s comments about Judge Robart “lack dignity and civility, and the remarks were disrespectful to the judge, the bench and the judicial branch of our government.”

Mr. Kelly said, “It is a fundamental principle of our democracy that we are to be governed and served by three co-equal branches of government. The judicial branch is an indispensable part of this historic system of checks and balances our founding fathers thought to be so precious and which has served us so well for more than two centuries.”

“While it is the right of every American to freely express opinions, such expressions should still be respectfully tempered, especially when such expressions come from our president,” Mr. Kelly added. “Respect for our institutions and adherence to the rule of law are fundamental privileges we enjoy as Americans.”

Mr. Kelly pointed out that before taking the bench as judge of a United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, Judge James Robart was a highly skilled, preeminent trial lawyer in Seattle, Washington. He received a unanimous "well qualified" rating from the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary during the nomination process for the federal bench. His nomination was made by President George W. Bush and submitted to the United States Senate for confirmation hearings. After the Senate's investigation and hearings were concluded, the Senate voted 99-0 for confirmation. Judge Robart became a federal judge in 2004.

“We respectfully urge President Trump to extend to the judicial branch and its members the same degree of dignity and respect that he would expect our citizens to show to the executive branch of our government,” Mr. Kelly said.

Preserving the quality and independence of the judiciary has been a hallmark of ABOTA’s efforts for decades, and the organization believes that confidence in the nation’s judicial system is profoundly important. More on this topic can be found in the ABOTA white paper, “Preserving a Fair, Impartial and Independent Judiciary,” available at www.abota.org.

About the American Board of Trial Advocates

Founded in 1958, ABOTA is a national association of experienced trial lawyers and judges. ABOTA and its members are dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the civil jury trial right provided by the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. ABOTA membership consists of more than 7,600 lawyers — equally balanced between plaintiff and defense — and judges spread among 97 chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.