In a shocking move, the Chief Justice of a U.S. District Court removed one judge from hearing all cases.
Judges, especially federal judges, are elected for life, or until they leave or move up to a higher court. Even though the only way to get rid of a judge is generally the impeachment process, that does not mean that there are not other ways to penalize judges who act poorly or fail to uphold the standards of a federal bench.
Barack Obama-appointed Judge Colin Stirling Bruce, who sits on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois is finding this out, as he begins to experience the fallout for his poor behavior. After admitting that he acted illegally, authorities took the next step and he has been removed from all cases, including two high-profile case he was hearing.
It is not an easy task to remove a sitting judge from a federal bench. Generally, it requires an impeachment, which is a difficult process to go through.
However, it is possible to simply remove a judge, especially one accused of some amount of misconduct, from hearing cases.
This is just the fate that Judge Colin Bruce found himself condemned to earlier this week.
Colin Bruce is still being paid, as are his clerks, but they are not hearing cases, and not doing any work. Information came to light, showing that Judge Bruce was involved in illegal activity with cases he heard in the past.
He even admitted to such illegal activity.
Someone also leaked the fact that he exchanged important emails with a ‘close employee’ at the United States Attorney’s office, and in those crimes he joked about a trial that was in progress at the time with said U.S. Attorney employee.
Currently, Judge Bruce was hearing two of the most high-profile cases in the region.
He was hearing arguments concerning ex-Congressman Aaron Schock’s corruption case, as well as the case of Brent Christensen, who is accused of kidnapping and killing Yingying Zhang in 2017.
Chief U.S. District Court Judge James Shadid decided to remove Bruce from his position, and released a one-sentence statement last week that he had “temporarily reassigned” all of the cases that he was overhearing in which federal prosecutors were a party.
He didn’t give any reason as to why he did this, though it likely had something to do with the misconduct.
The emails Judge Bruce sent, which were sent to a paralegal at Springfield, Illinois’ U.S. Attorney’s office, concerned a motion requesting a new trial for Sarah Nixon, who was convicted in December 2016 of ‘international parental kidnapping.’
In an email the judge sent to a paralegal, he said that the prosecutor had done a “wonderful job of repeating the bulls**t the defendant said as if the defendant’s story was all fact.”
He also mocked the job that an “inexperienced” Department of Justice attorney did when cross-examining a witness in an email he sent to said paralegal on the next day.
According to Phil Turner, a defense attorney in Chicago and a former federal prosecutor in the state, the judge’s conduct was extremely strange and “beyond the pale.”
He said that, had the comments Bruce made to his ‘paralegal friend’ been given to the prosecutors, it could have possibly helped them adjust how they interrogated and cross-examined the witnesses.
Legal experts said that this information, which the judge called an innocuous conversation with someone he portrayed as a long-time friend from when he worked in the U.S. Attorney’s office, could be grounds to review prior legal decisions that were made by the judge.
If he discussed his opinion of ongoing cases, that could be grounds to throw out rulings, or at least to challenge them, and that could be done for hundreds of cases if Judge Bruce was fond of having ‘innocuous’ conversations with people who represented one side of the cases he could possibly hear.
This case is perhaps more interesting than usual, due to the leftist anger targeting Judge T.S. Ellis III concerning his handling of the Paul Manafort. Media reports on that trial, castigating the way that Ellis ran his court room, were common.
Somehow, this story of an Obama-appointed judge who violated basic ethics and discussed a trial with someone who is part of the agency that represents one side of the cases he regularly hears didn’t manage to be newsworthy enough, it seems.
Just another reason why U.S. citizens lose more trust in their media every day.