Whereas juries are made up of private citizens taking part in their civic duty, judges are appointed or elected legal specialists responsible for decision-making in the millions of civil and criminal cases heard on a daily basis throughout the country. In criminal cases, that can mean unchecked power to set bail, sentence defendants to jail, and set other conditions of release and travel freedoms.
Judges are tasked with ensuring fairness through sound decision-making in all levels of the court of law and take a creed of impartiality which is deeply ingrained, as their decisions cannot be made until all case materials have been presented and considered in the courtroom.
That being said, judges are private citizens with real-world experiences and come from diverse backgrounds. It is highly unlikely that judges act impartially in all cases and trials, as they are prone to the same levels of stress, fatigue, and emotional drain as any other individual citizen. The guarantee of justice served is contingent on the accountability of those involved in its provision.
Unfortunately, that accountability is woefully absent in the rulings and behavior of Judge Nicholas Garaufis, Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Judge Garaufis, who has presided over recent high-profile trials including that of Clare Bronfman and others involved in NXIVM, has repeatedly demonstrated bias, lack of emotional empathy, and disregard for sentence guidelines.
Judge Garaufis is noted in conservative circles as the liberal judge who tried to subvert the Trump presidency by calling the former president's cancellation of DACA, an Obama era loophole allowing illegal immigrants to have a path to citizenship, an illegal order. Of course his ruling was reversed, and the speed at which he came to the ruling left no doubt about his bias.
Impartiality is neither a human instinct nor a universal trait. Because individuals are emotionally complex by nature, the ability for all judges to put aside prejudice and execute decision-making based solely on facts presented in the courtroom is conceptually difficult to detect and measure. Judicial impartiality is invalid when judges utilize their own views instead of following the laws, regulations, and facts of each case. After all, judges are the most protected entities in the judicial system.
Everyone tried in the United States should have justice administered evenly, even unpopular ones. And we, as the people, have a responsibility to hold judges to the standards of that ideal. While judicial abuse is predominant throughout the nation, there are certain high-profile cases, such as the NXIVM proceedings, that cast a particular spotlight on appointed judges, showcasing their potentially questionable antics in the courtroom.
Looking closer into Judge Garaufis’ long career of criminal proceedings, there are various incidents in which he has lost his temper in the courtroom. Judge Garaufis has raised his voice to attorneys, defendants, reporters, and other individuals assigned to his courtroom. This alone has subsequently affected his reputation as a temperamental man with manic outbreaks. He was said to have, “abandoned his neutral role, was influenced by press accounts of the proceedings and ignored key evidence,” in a case where New York City’s lawyers asked for him to be removed.
Judge Garaufis denied an accommodation of one hour for the funeral of an attorney’s closest friend, and instead, motioned to a box of tissues and mockingly encouraged the attorney to grieve in the courtroom. “Give this to him to go cry,” the judge mockingly told the distraught lawyer, prompting widespread criticism that he was unnecessarily mean. Another journalist noted that Judge Garaufis is “well known for losing his temper.”
Most recently, Judge Garaufis has not demonstrated fair treatment in the case involving Clare Bronfman and her role in NXIVM. As the judge presiding over the trial of Ms. Bronfman’s co-defendant, Keith Raniere, Judge Garaufis displayed a level of animus through placing her on a $100 million bail package throughout the sentencing stage and giving her a six-year and nine-month prison sentence, after she languished on house arrest for two years. Other defendants in the case also served many years of house arrest before being sentenced.
As rapists, murders and violent offenders utilize progressive born laws that have turned juris prudence into a joke, defendants like Ms. Bronfman languish in prisons. But it is not because of Woke laws, it is because of a Judge who has been out of control for years and a system that does nothing about it – despite the many instances of impropriety and even calls from government officials to have him removed.
Judge Garaufis demonstrated a blatant disregard of all sentencing guidelines by issuing asymmetric sentences to the various members involved, despite their function and role in crimes committed by certain members of the collective. The sentencing disparities in the case range from probation to 140-year prison sentences, which is virtually unheard of in the entirety of the U.S. judicial system.
Unfortunately for Judge Garaufis, this track record shows the degree to which his decisions can be fueled by emotion and simultaneously demonstrates a potential vendetta or outside motive to inhibit justice in some cases, such as that with Ms. Bronfman.
The basis of U.S. democracy is the rule of law. An independent judiciary ensures that individuals appointed to serve as judges are inclined to make decisions independent of their personal opinions and politics. The freedom to criticize judges in light of error is necessary to fulfill the responsibilities granted in our democracy. When justice is replaced with intimidation and sanctions, the presiding judge is responsible.