Judge Richard J. Daronco was our trial advocacy professor in law school (he had been elevated to the District Court the year before and was continuing to teach as an adjunct). We were lucky. Once, one of us was flailing about trying to argue something, and he couldn’t control himself. He jumped from behind the lectern. “Let me show you how to do it!” He was a pretty reserved guy but now, a switch was flown, and he became the real thing. He’s jabbing the air, he’s raising his voice, he’s banging the desk. And pulling it off. Someone persuading you with their voice and their command.
After some more crescendos and some more majestic arm movements, he realized that we were staring at him in slack-jawed amazement. He came out of it, and he sheepishly said “I’m like the retired Dalmation barking when he hears the fire alarm.” He went back to his lectern.
On May 22, 1988, the father of a pro se litigant whom Judge Daronco had ruled against the previous day, broke into the Judge’s house and shot him to death. Judge Daronco is one of the four federal judges killed in office.
There are news reports that Judge Robart, the Federal Judge who handled the Travel Ban case in the District of Washington, has received death threats. One ‘pundit’ blithely dismissed this: ‘Judges always receive death threats.’ In fact, Judge Robart, before this case, joked that by becoming a judge, he took a pay cut so that he could receive death threats.
It’s true – judges routinely receive death threats. There are many disturbed people out there. There is no reason to add to the number. The President can use the bully pulpit to vigorously criticize decisions with which he disagrees. Or maybe ask your attorney general to review the decision and have him lambast it. Or take the time to write an EO that won’t be stayed 3-0.
But for the president to suggest to the public that they imagine a causal link between a judicial decision and a terror attack – the word ‘irresponsible’ doesn’t seem to cover it. ‘Criminal’ might.
The Westchester County Courthouse was re-named after Judge Daronco. It’s three blocks from our offices in White Plains. I can see it from my office.