In case you haven’t heard by now, the US District Judge (John Coughenour) in Washington state who sentenced Ahmed Ressam to a 22-year prison term yesterday for attempting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in what’s been referred to as the thwarted millennium attack had some rather harsh words to say regarding the Bush administration’s policies on the war on terror (read Captain Ed, Michelle Malkin, and Hugh Hewitt [more from him here] for the full 411). Some of John Coughenours’s ”emotional” comments:
“The tragedy of Sept. 11 shook our sense of security and made us realize that we, too, are vulnerable to acts of terrorism,” said Coughenour in a voice edged with emotion. “Unfortunately, some believe that this threat renders our Constitution obsolete. … If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won.”
Well, of course with comments like that, you’re automatically considered a hero and a ‘maverick’ to the left, as this Seattle Times piece suggests (note the headline):
In his 24 years on the federal bench in the Western District of Washington, Chief U.S. District Judge John Coughenour has earned a reputation as an outspoken maverick who, in recent years, has not shied away from criticizing the Bush administration and its policies designed to combat terrorism.
Over the years, Coughenour has publicly opposed the death penalty and criticized federal sentencing guidelines for eroding judicial discretion in the meting out of punishment.
And he also has criticized the Patriot Act in a law journal published in 2003.
The article goes on to note:
In a nearly-16,000 word paper published in the Winter 2003 issue of The Seattle University Law Review, Coughenour juxtaposed Russia’s struggle to revive a jury system and implement democratic criminal-justice reforms with post-9/11 measures put in place by President Bush to deny detainees the right to counsel or the right to challenge their detention.
In the article, Coughenour criticized the “hastily enacted Patriot Act” for reducing standards for detaining someone, allowing “highly intrusive intelligence gathering techniques” and enabling the circumvention of “constitutional safeguards.”
“… I sense that my Russian peers hope our history does not come to mirror their own,” Coughenour wrote. “… They question whether an over-empowered executive branch may injure the state it purports to protect and whether our independent judiciary can withstand its authority.”
Oh right. Sure. Does this guy even have a clue how easy suspected terorrists, terrorist supporters, and enemy combatants have it in comparison to past wars this country has fought in? Also, isn’t it highly amusing that just about *anyone* who speaks out against the admin is considered a ‘maverick’? John McCain is a ‘maverick,’ Chuck Hagel is a ‘maverick’ and so is Judge Coughenour, apparently. But if you agree with the Bush administration, you are branded as a mindless sycophant.
I think now would be a good time to bring up Judge William Young’s comments to shoe bomber Richard Reid at his sentencing hearing back from January 30, 2003:
This is the sentence that is provided for by our statutes. It is a fair and a just sentence. It is a righteous sentence. Let me explain this to you.
We are not afraid of any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before. There is all too much war talk here. And I say that to everyone with the utmost respect.
Here in this court where we deal with individuals as individuals, and care for individuals as individuals, as human beings we reach out for justice.
You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. Whether it is the officers of government who do it or your attorney who does it, or that happens to be your view, you are a terrorist.
And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not treat with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists.
We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice.
So war talk is way out of line in this court. You’re a big fellow. But you’re not that big. You’re no warrior. I know warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal guilty of multiple attempted murders.
In a very real sense Trooper Santiago had it right when first you were taken off that plane and into custody and you wondered where the press and where the TV crews were and you said you’re no big deal. You’re no big deal.
What your counsel, what your able counsel and what the equally able United States attorneys have grappled with and what I have as honestly as I know how tried to grapple with, is why you did something so horrific. What was it that led you here to this courtroom today? I have listened respectfully to what you have to say. And I ask you to search your heart and ask yourself what sort of unfathomable hate led you to do what you are guilty and admit you are guilty of doing.
And I have an answer for you. It may not satisfy you. But as I search this entire record it comes as close to understanding as I know.
It seems to me you hate the one thing that to us is most precious. You hate our freedom. Our individual freedom. Our individual freedom to live as we choose, to come and go as we choose, to believe or not believe as we individually choose.
Here, in this society, the very winds carry freedom. They carry it everywhere from sea to shining sea. It is because we prize individual freedom so much that you are here in this beautiful courtroom. So that everyone can see, truly see that justice is administered fairly, individually, and discretely.
It is for freedom’s seek that your lawyers are striving so vigorously on your behalf and have filed appeals, will go on in their, their representation of you before other judges. We care about it. Because we all know that the way we treat you, Mr. Reid, is the measure of our own liberties.
Make no mistake though. It is yet true that we will bear any burden; pay any price, to preserve our freedoms.
Look around this courtroom. Mark it well. The world is not going to long remember what you or I say here. Day after tomorrow it will be forgotten. But this, however, will long endure. Here, in this courtroom, and courtrooms all across America, the American people will gather to see that justice, individual justice, justice, not war, individual justice is in fact being done.
The very President of the United States through his officers will have to come into courtrooms and lay out evidence on which specific matters can be judged, and juries of citizens will gather to sit and judge that evidence democratically, to mold and shape and refine our sense of justice.
See that flag, Mr. Reid? That’s the flag of the United States of America. That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag still stands for freedom. You know it always will. Custody, Mr. Officer. Stand him down.
Judge Young is the real maverick here, not Coughenour, and believe me – I’m not talking about the Democrat’s definition of ‘maverick’ either, if you catch my meaning.