Judge Jerry Smith’s Inappropriate Political Outburst

On Monday, as reported by CNN, a federal appeals judge (J. Jerry Smith, 5th Cir.) questioned a lawyer for the United States, on the record during a court proceeding, concerning political comments made by President Barack Obama on an unrelated matter. To be clear, Judge Smith brought the topic up on his own, out of the blue.


As most Americans know, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments last week on President Obama’s healthcare law.  During an interview, President Obama stated that he believed there was no precedent to strike down the law.

Judge Jerry Smith is not a U.S. Supreme Court justice.  Rather, Judge Smith is simply a federal appeals judge on a lower court — the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  So, the case that was being heard by Judge Smith was not the case that was heard by the Supreme Court, about which President Obama made his comment.

What Happened

Nevertheless, in the unrelated case, Judge Smith ordered — yes, an actual court order — the lawyer for the U.S. in that case to provide a letter of “no less than three pages, single spaced” explaining the president’s comment on the unrelated matter.  Judge Smith did this on the record, during appellate argument time that was supposed to only be reserved for the actual case before him.

Stated otherwise, Judge Smith clearly showed that his political opinion of the president would affect the rights of the parties in the case before him.  In other words, Judge Smith revealed that bias and a political agenda affect his application of the law.

Why This Was Inappropriate, and Deeply Troubling

While the Congress and the president have to answer to the political wishes of the voters, judges are only supposed to answer to the Constitution.  Very simply, while politicians are by their nature to be governed by passions, judges must be guided only by honest logic, meaning integrity.

This judge not only allowed his personal beliefs to skew how he would interpret the Constitution, but he let his passions affect him to the point that he had a political hissy fit while sitting on the bench and donning a judicial robe.

Sure, judges are voters like the rest of us when they are not on the bench, and of course have opinions.  But, while they are on the bench, they have a duty to our founders, the people who bled and died creating this country, and the great men and women who have died for our freedom in wars since the founding, and also to we the people today, to interpret and apply the Constitution correctly, even if that means rendering a decision with which the judge does not personally agree.


Justice is not blind in Judge Jerry Smith’s court room.  Rather, he provided conclusive evidence through his political hissy fit that his ego and political beliefs govern his decisions.

In addition to infringing upon the rights of parties who appear before Judge Jerry Smith, his actions do nothing to help the image of the legal profession.  Instead, they simply draw attention to the fact of a very real problem — our current judicial structure allows for some bad apples to make very important decisions.  Petty egos and bias are sometimes the law of the land rather than the Constitution.

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