Federal judge rebukes Trump attacks on courts, compares to segregationist era

A federal district court judge took a broad, unprecedented swipe against President Donald Trump on Thursday, accusing his administration of launching a “great assault on our judiciary.”

Judge Carlton Wayne Reeves of the US District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi called for more diversity in the federal courts, arguing that a more diverse judicial system ensures justice for all.

“When politicians attack courts as ‘dangerous,’ ‘political’ and guilty of ‘egregious overreach,’ you can hear the Klan’s lawyers, assailing officers of the court across the South,” Reeves told an audience at University of Virginia Law School on Thursday while accepting the school’s Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal.

For his remarks, Reeves, was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2010, quoted directly from Trump’s tweets, campaign speeches and interviews, although he did not specifically name Trump in his speech.

“When the powerful accuse courts of ‘opening up our country to potential terrorists’ you can hear the Southern Manifesto’s authors smearing the judiciary for simply upholding the rights of black folk,” Reeves said, adding, “And when the Executive Branch calls our courts and their work ‘stupid,’ ‘horrible,’ ‘ridiculous,’ ‘incompetent,’ ‘a laughingstock,’ and a ‘complete and total disgrace,’ you can hear the slurs and threats of executives like George Wallace echoing into the present.”

BuzzFeed first reported on his remarks.

It is exceedingly rare for a sitting judge to launch an attack against a sitting president. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reeves particularly noted Trump’s attacks against US District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, a federal district judge in the Southern District of California. During the 2016 campaign, Trump had accused Curiel, who was born in the US, of having an “inherent conflict of interest” in a lawsuit against Trump University lawsuit because of his Mexican heritage.

“I know what I heard when a federal judge was called ‘very biased and unfair’ because he is ‘of Mexican heritage,'” Reeves said, quoting again from Trump. “When that judge’s ethnicity was said to prevent his issuing ‘fair rulings.’ When that judge was called a ‘hater’ simply because he is Latino.”

“I heard the words of James Eastland, a race-baiting politician, empowered by the falsehood of white supremacy, questioning the judicial temperament of a man solely because of the color of his skin. I heard those words, and I did not know if it was 1967 or 2017,” Reeves said.

Reeves shared that he has been sent “countless letters of hatred” containing insults, profanity and threats aimed to “bully and scare judges who look like me from the judiciary.”

The judge also castigated Trump’s administration for its lack of racial and gender diversity in its judicial nominations.

“There is no excuse for this exclusion of minority experiences from our courts,” said Reeves, who became Mississippi’s second black federal judge in its history.

Reeves added that “courts can and should be criticized” because “judges get it wrong — all the time. That includes me.”

“But the slander and falsehoods thrown at courts today are not those of a critic seeking to improve the judiciary’s search for truth. They are words of an attacker, seeking to distort and twist that search toward falsehood.”

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