D.C. Judge Reggie Walton critiqued by legal experts over 'inappropriate' and 'unseemly' remarks attacking Trump in CNN interview

 March 30, 2024

A sitting federal judge in Washington D.C., Senior U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton, sharply critiqued former President Donald Trump during a rare media interview this week, despite Trump being a defendant in a pending case in Walton's district, albeit under a different judge.

Walton's apparent public rebuke of Trump has itself been criticized by several conservative legal experts as "inappropriate" and "unseemly," according to Fox News.

The judge's harsh commentary about Trump came in response to the former president's potential violation of the gag order imposed on him by New York Judge Juan Merchan by way of Trump's sharp criticism of Merchan's daughter, a partisan activist aligned with Democrats who has been vocal in her opposition to the Republican presidential nominee.

D.C. judge implies Trump has threatened NY judge's family members

On Thursday, Judge Walton appeared on CNN and told host Kaitlan Collins, "It’s very disconcerting to have someone making comments about a judge, and it’s particularly problematic when those comments are in the form of a threat, especially if they’re directed at one’s family."

Walton, who along with his daughter has also faced alleged threats, continued, "We do these jobs because we’re committed to the rule of law and we believe in the rule of law, and the rule of law can only function effectively when we have judges who are prepared to carry out their duties without the threat of potential physical harm."

"I think it’s important that, as judges, we speak out and say things in reference to things that conceivably are going to impact on the process, because if we don’t have a viable court system that’s able to function efficiently, then we have tyranny," the judge said. "And I don’t think that would be good for the future of our country, and the future of democracy in our country."

Walton later added that, in his view, former President Trump's calling out of Judge Merchan's daughter was "very troubling because I think it is an attack on the rule of law when judges are threatened and particularly when their family is threatened and it’s something that’s wrong and should not happen."

Walton's "unseemly" commentary about Trump

Fox News legal expert Keri Kupec Urbahn, who previously served as counselor to former Attorney General Bill Barr, said, "Judge Reggie Walton is a sitting federal judge in a district where Donald Trump is currently a criminal defendant with an active case. He should not be publicly commenting in media interviews on anything related to him, full stop."

"This is yet another example of a lack of regard for the appearance of fairness when it comes to Donald Trump, which, whether you like Trump or not, flies in the face of what judges and the justice system are supposed to be about," she added.

Constitutional attorney John Shu, who served in both Bush administrations, told Fox News, "It’s unseemly for Judge Walton to publicly discuss Trump or a Trump case, regardless of which one, because one of Trump’s active criminal cases is in Judge Walton’s court, the federal district court in D.C."

"It seems that the interviewer wrongly conflated Trump’s harsh social media critiques about Judge Merchan and his daughter -- which probably fall within First Amendment protections -- and the awful, actual threats that Judge Walton and his family faced, which are considered criminal behavior and thus not protected speech," he added. "Just like the awful, actual threats that Justices Alito, Coney Barrett, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Roberts, and Thomas and their respective families had to deal with after the Dobbs draft opinion leak."

Misconduct complaint incoming against Judge Walton

The Washington Examiner reported that Judge Walton has presided over several Jan. 6 Capitol riot cases, which led Heritage Foundation attorney Mike Howell, who has represented several Jan. 6 defendants, to say that his organization will "carefully consider how these unprecedented partisan comments on a partisan network impact our cases before Judge Reggie Walton."

The Article III Project founder Mike Davis said in a series of X posts that Walton's comments were "extremely inappropriate" and worthy of a misconduct complaint, as well as, "Is this a (bad) joke? This is a sitting federal judge. And he’s commenting on a pending criminal case? Against the leading presidential candidate? During the height of the election season? If so, this is highly prejudicial."

The Examiner further noted that this isn't the first time that Walton has been openly critical of former President Trump, as he once called him a "charlatan" while sentencing on Jan. 6 defendant, and on another occasion lambasted another Jan. 6 defendant for being "gullible enough" to believe Trump's oft-repeated "lie" about the 2020 election being rigged and stolen.

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