President Donald Trump’s nominee for a federal judgeship in the Eastern Pennsylvania district is facing an intense backlash after a scathing report released Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union and a watchdog group.
U.S., Pennsylvania judges face backlash in court-packing bid The civil liberties group found that Pennsylvania’s Judicial Crisis Network had engaged in a campaign of intimidation and retaliation against lawyers who sought to challenge the governor’s executive order granting sweeping pardons to more than 500 people who had faced criminal charges.
The American Civil Liberty Union and the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Lawyers Guild called the report an unprecedented effort to undermine the rule of law, which the group said had become the primary focus of President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to pack federal courts.
The ACLU called the attack on its civil liberties and judicial independence “a new low for the Trump administration.”
The report, “Pardoning the Innocent: The U.N. Report on Alleged Pardons of American Citizens Who Were Arrested and Imprisoned,” was issued by the ACLU’s Center for Constitutional Rights and the Center for Public Integrity.
It is the latest piece of evidence to be released in the years-long probe of the Trump Justice Department’s handling of the mass deportation of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants from Central America.
The report also said that while the Justice Department claimed to be pursuing a criminal investigation, it had actually been trying to remove individuals from their communities for years.
“The Justice Department is currently seeking to remove the American citizens who were charged with criminal acts for no discernible reason other than they were convicted of a criminal offense, and then deported,” the report said.
It also found that Justice Department lawyers in the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office had tried to have the convictions reversed on the grounds that the accused persons were deportable.
In some cases, the lawyers had even tried to use their positions to prevent a judge from enforcing their orders, the report found.
The Trump administration had no immediate comment.
The Civil Liberties, Justice and Justice Democrats who authored the report called on Trump to immediately halt the practice of federal judges in the United States being removed for a conviction.
They also urged the president to end the practice that gives federal judges a constitutional shield to disregard the Constitution.
The ACLU’s report was released ahead of a hearing on the executive order, and has been cited as one of the reasons the Justice department has said it will appeal the order.
The order was signed by Trump in May and temporarily blocked the enforcement of deportation orders by the Obama administration.
The civil liberties groups report found that judges in Pennsylvania, which has more than 5,000 federal judges, are subject to the governor and the executive branch in all matters and are not bound by judicial decisions, which means they are free to ignore or defy the will of the public or the legislature.
In addition, judges in those districts are often the first to hear appeals from state and local officials who are also subject to court decisions, the groups found.
Judges are also often subject to partisan pressure to support the president and his agenda, the group added.
The state’s judges and other officials are “particularly susceptible to the influence of the administration’s political appointees,” said Elizabeth Schoenberg, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania ACLU has filed lawsuits against several governors, including former Republican Gov.
Tom Corbett, who was ousted in a recall election in 2018.