Several weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision, as rare as it i was remarkable. It overturned a decision by the PA Supreme Court, strongly rebuked that court’s former chief justice, and issued a new rule of constitutional law, that no judge that formerly worked as a prosecutor, could ever later sit as a judge examining his previous prosecutorial role.
The reasons were many, but it boiled down to this simple principle: that no man should be a judge of his own case.
In the Williams case, the Supremes determined that Ronald Castile, Philadelphia’s former DA, should have recused (or excused) himself from sitting as a member of an appellate court reviewing a decision by a lower court, which had determined that his former colleagues had hid evidence, ‘sanitized’ witnesses statements and presented an untrue picture of the case to the jury.
What makes this case especially egregious is that this was a capital case: a death penalty case.
Left unspoken were several important questions, for example, what happens to the DAs who hid, or sanitized, evidence? What happens to the other judges, who, as justices of a state Supreme Court, looked on as chief justice Castile violated the rights of fundamental fairness (not to mention constitutional due process rights!) of the accused?
Well, nothing. Nothing at all.
When cops violate laws (or rules), the media and politicians call for more training – or, lately, body cams.
What about DAs – people already trained in the law?
What about justices – who see such violations – and yet say nothing – or worse still, join in and vote to deny relief?
Nothing. Nothing at all. For them, there is judicial immunity (or should we say impunity?)
That’s the nature of the System.
Like Popes on the throne of Rome, they can do no wrong.
Until they do.