Judge Aquilina’s 156 Errors

While she never got that television show of her own, she did get to see her name emblazoned across the screen on Saturday Night Live and was interviewed on the Today Show. Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina was a star.

[Aquilina] told Today Show hosts Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie that she was surprised and pleased by how much the world took notice of Nassar’s case.

“This is a world-wide epidemic,” she said Monday. “It opened the world to say ‘me too, let’s start the discussion,’ which should have happened years ago and this (the widespread abuse by Nassar) never would have happened.”

She’s responsible for #MeToo? Huge, if true. But as impressed as Judge Aquilina is with herself, and with her many fans who care nothing for the fact that she was a judge (including at least one other judge), not the avenging angel of womanhood, the Michigan Court of Appeals may not have been nearly as enthralled with the Judge Aquilina show.

The Michigan Court of Appeals has agreed to hear arguments from Larry Nassar’s attorneys that he should receive a new sentence from a new judge on seven sexual assault convictions because Judge Rosemarie Aquilina was biased against him.

The decision from a three-judge panel came last week. They granted part of Nassar’s request to appeal, specially related to Aquilina’s conduct during and after the seven-day Ingham County sentencing hearing in January.

Whether Larry Nassar is a monster, and regardless of whether the aggregate sentence imposed making certain that he will spend the rest of his life in prison, was proper, the process employed and the language uttered was so fundamentally improper that it denied Nassar due process. Even monsters are entitled to due process.

Aquilina’s bias against Nassar, his attorneys argued, violated his due process rights, and she violated judicial conduct in her comments during and after the sentencing. They also argued that she should have been disqualified from ruling on the motion for a new sentence, which she denied in August.

This was the judge who suggested, at sentence, that she regretted she couldn’t sentence Nassar to be raped in prison. This was the judge who allowed 156 women to speak during the course of a seven-day sentencing hearing, even though only seven were involved with the case before Aquilina. This was an utterly flagrant display of bias, of judicial overreaching, of complete abdication of judicial responsibility. But hey, the mob loved it, and isn’t that really what matters most?

For Nassar, there is unlikely to be any net difference from Aquilina’s impropriety. He was already sentenced to 60 years in a federal case, and was sentenced to 40 to 125 years by Eaton County Judge Janice Cunningham for three additional convictions. He’s not going anywhere, even if Aquilina’s sentence is vacated and he gets probation from another judge.

Notice that the names of the other judges didn’t make it onto the TV screen? They did their jobs. They sentenced Nassar for his heinous crimes. But they didn’t make themselves pop stars in the process, forsaking their judicial duties to pander to the mob.

As it’s now become common for the mob to “Persky” judges who fail to mete out sentences that are sufficiently harsh to sate their blood lust, while being mute when someone like Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel imposed sentences in excess of what the law allows to vent her outrage, the message to judges has become dangerously clear. Forget the law. Forget due process. Screw the limitations of your office. Play to the fury of the mob and you will be rewarded by adoration and, perhaps, an interview on national television.

But don’t do as the mob demands and they will destroy the judge.

Unlike Judge Aaron Persky, who had the support of both the prosecution and defense for being a smart and fair judge, Aquilina was not well-regarded, but considered an intemperate show pony who desperately sought attention and prominence. And she got what she wanted by sacrificing her duty as a judge.

The Michigan Court of Appeals should do to Aquilina what the Pennsylvania Superior Court did to McDaniel. She has no business being a judge and has demonstrated beyond question that she lacks the capacity to control her outrage in the exercise of her authority.

It won’t change the fact that Nassar’s life will end in a cell, but that isn’t really the point. It will, however, tell judges that no matter how desperately they want to pander to the mob for adoration, they can’t do so at the price of their robes. Judges aren’t television stars or avenging angels, but just judges. If they can’t control themselves and limit their abuse of power, then they shouldn’t be on the bench.

13 thoughts on “Judge Aquilina’s 156 Errors

  1. Skink

    It could be the time of year or the Tennessee Whiskey, but I had a dream about this last night. It was very much set in the courtroom from Miracle on 34th Street. The judge, who was unfortunately politically-handled by Fred Mertz, was told by a cunning lawyer that indisputable proof existed that Kris Kringle was indeed Santa Clause. To the evidence, the judge said, “put it right here on the bench.” the result was the most efficient act in the history of the United States Post Office.

    But in the dream, I was the judge.* I was hearing the appeal from Aquilina’s decision. She stood before me. I told her, “put it right here on the bench. In fact, put both right here on the bench.” When she didn’t move, I said, “put the robe AND the Bar Card right here on the bench.”

    This judge set her oath aside, along with all her legal integrity and the perceived integrity of all judges in her antics at trial. For what? Momentary fame? Vengeance? Indignation? I don’t know. I also don’t know how a judge, any judge, can think it’s within their constitutional authority to do stuff like she did at trial. It’s just beyond my comprehension that centuries of basic legal principles get tossed for a momentary whatever. It’s so basic to us that it’s like a plumber deciding not to use pipes.

    But what she did at trial wasn’t enough. After an appeal was filed, she went on national television to explain her sentence. I sit at this machine all day, every day, writing memos to courts. I’ve written a few billion words. But I don’t have the words to express the disgust I have for this judge.

    She should put the robe and the card on the bench.

    *It’s mighty surprising this scary possibility didn’t jerk me awake. It wouldn’t surprise me if a few hundred local lawyers bolted upright from their sound sleep and scream, “what the fuck just happened?”

    1. SHG Post author

      As you and I know only too well, judges can be brilliant or those dumbasses we used to ridicule as lawyers because of their perpetual dopiness. Too often, the foremost quality of the folks who get robes is a moist enough tongue to lick stamps in the party boss’ office. Their jokes are no funnier, their feelings no more valid, and certainly their intelligence no greater because they wear a robe to work.

      1. Skink

        But this isn’t just dopey and it isn’t just a McDaniel over-sentencing. Those can things get fixed on appeal. It also isn’t the same as the slew of incidents over the last few years, where judges have relationships with cops or lawyers appearing before them in mundane cases, like murder trials. Judicial oversight bodies take care of those, hopefully.

        For me, this is much worse. Who, besides you, will have the fortitude to corral this judge?

      2. B. McLeod

        At least around here, they tend to wear their regular clothes to the courthouse and put on the robes in chambers. Probably so other people won’t look at them funny while they are driving around in traffic.

  2. Jake

    To be clear: Was her sin misusing the courtroom to hear the additional testimony or publicly revealing an opinion on the matter which could be construed as bias?

    1. SHG Post author

      01001111 01110010 00100000 01100010 01101111 01110100 01101000 00101100 00100000 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01101101 01101111 01110010 01100101 00101110

  3. Jake

    01001111 01110010 00100000 01100010 01101111 01110100 01101000 00101100 00100000 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01101101 01101111 01110010 01100101 00101110

          1. Jake

            Thanks Skink. I will, but if you’ve been hanging around here for long and paying this much attention to me, you already know that. And, as you stated earlier this week, you’re certainly not the first to share the least charitable analysis of my intelligence. So have no fear: I have quite thick skin and I too am often unoriginal and give voice to noisome assumptions about strangers on the internet.

Comments are closed.