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.