Judicial Candour at its finest in US v Manafort

The transcript of oral argument in Paul Manafort’s application to have his indictment dismissed in United States v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr. Criminal Case 1:18-cr-83 (available for download at www.scribd.com) makes for illuminating and at times, entertaining reading. Some of the remarks his Honour Judge TS Ellis III of the Eastern District Court of Virginia made from the bench were too good to resist recounting. Following are three of the best:-

On the doctrine of the separation of powers (at T12/15):

“What we don’t want in this country is we don’t want anyone with unfettered power. We don’t want federal judges with unfettered power. We don’t want elected officials with unfettered power. We don’t want anybody, including the president of the United States, nobody to have unfettered power. So it’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me that the special prosecutor has unlimited powers to do anything he or she wants.”

On court room etiquette (at T34/8):

“By the way, don’t nod or shake your head out here because it interrupts the speaker. It’s rude, and it has often the opposite effect you may — I was never able to do that by the way. When I was sitting where you are, I nodded and shook my head all the time. Despite the fact that it aggravated judges, I did it, and I regret that. My perspective is a little different now. I expect you to do what I was unable to do. Don’t worry about it. It’s not a big deal.”

And the pros and cons of written submissions (T18/19):

“I reminisce a lot. The world has changed. I was a student in England in the late ’60s, and I went to many oral arguments. They didn’t use briefs at all in the cases I went to. In the House of Lords, the judges appeared in suits, and the lawyers appeared and the barristers appeared in wigs and robes. They together bent down, pulled books off the shelf and read cases together and argued about them. I thought that was a charming but ineffective way to do things. Writing briefs is much more effective, but then it kind of renders oral argument a little more uninteresting.”

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