By Linn Washington Jr.
President Barack Obama, a former professor of constitutional law, has just nominated to the Federal bench a lower court magistrate in Philadelphia who appears to be a legal bully with a dim understanding of the First Amendment and the Code of Conduct required of federal judges.
That Code of Conduct clearly forbids jurists from actions that undermine “public confidence” in the integrity of the judiciary, such as judges using their authority to harass people.
Some in the Philadelphia area feel a federal magistrate clearly broached that code’s requirements last year when he ordered U.S. Marshals to investigate a Delaware man who had sent him a short letter urging that magistrate to act fairly in a court proceeding.
The target of that investigation, military veteran Hampton Coleman, filed a complaint with federal judicial authorities claiming federal marshals, dispatched by that magistrate, harassed him, including threatening him with losing his house if he sent another letter to that magistrate.
President Barack Obama recently nominated that federal magistrate, Luis Felipe Restrepo, to fill a vacant U.S. District Court judgeship in Philadelphia. The nomination is supported by Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators, Democrat Bob Casey and and Tea Party Republican Pat Toomey.
Coleman’s “Complaint of Misconduct” against Magistrate Judge Restrepo stated in part that Restrepo “made an intentionally inaccurate and false claim of a threat…and then employed the United States Marshals Service to retaliate, threaten and intimidate me for exercising” his First Amendment rights, which expressly include freedom of speech and the right to seek redress from authorities.
One section of the federal Code of Conduct states that a judge “should be” respectful of persons with whom the judge deals in an official capacity, explaining that the duty of judges “to be respectful includes the responsibility to avoid…behavior that could reasonably be interpreted as harassment…”
Magistrate Judge Restrepo’s nomination by Obama causes supporters of Coleman to question the commitment of top elected officials, including the president, to require strict adherence to Code of Conduct standards from federal jurists. Additionally, the manner in which federal judicial authorities handled complaints against Restrepo from Coleman and Coleman’s nephew raises disturbing questions about procedural accountability among judges judging judges.
Federal judicial officials in Philadelphia indignantly dismissed Coleman’s complaint against Restrepo without ever questioning either Coleman or the seven witnesses Coleman provided to substantiate his initial claim about Restrepo’s alleged misconduct in and outside of the courtroom...
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