October 25, 2020

Black, Mississippi federal judge compares Trump’s criticism of judiciary to KKK’s tactics

A black federal judge from Mississippi slammed President Trump’s criticism of the nation’s judiciary comparing the president’s attacks to those of segregationists and the Ku Klux Klan.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves said the Trump administration was a “great assault on our judiciary.”

Reeves was speaking Thursday at the University of Virginia School of Law where he accepted the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law award. Reeves graduated from UVA.

Trump has been highly critical of the nation’s judiciary mocking both the system as a whole as well as questioning the intelligence and fairness of individual judges.

“When politicians attack courts as ‘dangerous,’ ‘political,’ and guilty of ‘egregious overreach,’ you can hear the Klan’s lawyers, assailing officers of the court across the South,” Reeves said. “When leaders chastise people for merely ‘us[ing] the courts,’ you can hear the Citizens Council, hammering up the names of black petitioners in Yazoo City.”

Reeves said the tactics Trump uses are the same as segregationists and racists used in the Jim Crow era to suppress blacks.

“The deliverers of hate who send these messages aim to bully and scare judges who look like me from the judiciary. And so they share an aim with those who used whips and ropes and trees against my ancestors: scrubbing the black experience from our nation’s courts,” Reeves said.

“Scrutiny of our reasoning is not, on its own, troubling. Indeed, debating judicial decisions improves, rather than impedes, our courts’ search for truth. But the slander and falsehoods thrown at courts today are not those of a critic, seeking to improve the judiciary’s search for truth. They are words of an attacker, seeking to distort and twist that search toward falsehood.”

Reeves said the Trump administration has failed to even attempt at making appointments to the federal judiciary that reflect the diversity of the nation.

“Think: in a country where they make up just 30% of the population, non-Hispanic white men make up nearly 70% of this Administration’s confirmed judicial appointees,” Reeves said. “That’s not what American look like. That not even what the legal profession looks like.”

Carlton said the issue was not one affected merely by the political party in charge.

“Presidents from Nixon to Reagan to Bush have proven that Republican Administrations have no trouble finding women and people of color with suitable judicial philosophies.

“Think of the nominations to the bench of those who call diversity ‘code for relaxed standards,’ who call transgender children part of ‘Satan’s plan,’ who defend the KKK in online message boards, who led voter suppression efforts for segregationists like Jesse Helms.”

In closing his speech, Reeves recalled the man for whom the award he was receiving was named.

“Because for all of his failings, Mr. Jefferson, a man of his times, also framed our country’s greatest truth: that ‘all men are created equal’ … We do Jefferson justice — we do the martyrs of Mississippi justice — we do our country justice — by defending our judiciary. Now more than ever.”