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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Friday, January 26, 2018

Judges and the Media

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina
This post addresses the intersection between the judicial branch and the fourth estate. As lawyers practicing in the trenches of the courtrooms in Michigan, we here at the Law Blogger appreciate judges that eschew the media rather than bask in the glow of its camera lights.

That's why we were taken back by Judge Rosemarie Aquilina's recent commentary from the bench at the conclusion of Larry Nassar's epochal sentencing hearing. Judges must be impartial and Judge Aquilina probably crossed the line between impartial jurist and victim's advocate in the Nassar case.

The Ingham County Circuit Judge told Nassar that she was "honored and privileged" to sentence him; that she "signed his death warrant"; and that if our Constitution did not proscribe "cruel and unusual punishment", she would allow "people to do to him what he did to others." She also referred to Nassar's legion of victims as "sister survivors", many of whom were allowed to speak during the sentencing hearing, without being listed as complaining witnesses in the charging instrument.

Um, we don't have the death penalty here in Michigan judge. And, could you please stop handing-out appellate issues as if they were candy.

Judge Aquilina succumbed to a classic courtroom sketch. An evil villain is convicted of heinous crimes and the sentencing judge chooses colorful words and phrases designed to fit into media sound-bites.

Although a very human way to react to a horrible situation, the principle of judicial impartiality is bedrock and must be sacrosanct regardless of the media attention surrounding a particular case.

We can already smell the political possibilities flowing from this case: Judge Aquilina for Michigan Supreme Court? Somewhere along the line, Judge Aquilina assured the media that this criminal proceeding was not about her. "The lady doth protest too much", we think over here at the Law Blogger.

We love to hear from our readers on these high-profile cases that point to the heart and soul of our justice system. Do you think the judge crossed the line with her comments in this case?


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