Our Judicial Supragovernment?
Not being adequately informed about the case and the relevant laws, I’ve been waiting to hear Andrew’s argument in full with respect to Jim Taricani and Judge Torres before taking a position. However, Dan Yorke believes Judge Torres is in the right, and he just said something on his radio show that gives reason, at the very least, to be concerned about an underlying mindset.
With interspersed commentary, Yorke played the public statement that Taricani made upon being declared guilty of criminal contempt of court. When he got to this sentence, Yorke stopped the tape:
The government has used its resources and power and the threat of jail to try to coerce me to identify a confidential source.
Among his comments, Yorke suggested that, while technically true, it was somehow shifty to characterize the judiciary as “the government.” Paraphrasing: “It’s one branch of government, and in this case, it’s investigating another branch of government, the executive” (meaning the FBI). This brings to mind something from one of Andrew’s posts on this topic:
Institutionally, American democracy has forgotten something — all three branches of government are charged with defending the rights of the individual. Somewhere that idea was lost, replaced by the idea that the court system alone was charged with protecting individual liberty, and the other branches of government, and the general population, were expected to obey judges’ orders without question (unless another judge overturned an order.)
I’ve done some preliminary investigation of the relevant law — enough to realize that I don’t have the time right now to do more than a preliminary investigation — and it appears that the question comes down to whether Torres’s order that Taricani reveal his source was a “lawful writ, process, order, rule, decree, or command.” I’ll leave that question open (Taricani does have lawyers working on his behalf, after all), but I will agree with Andrew that this case may present a worth-taking opportunity for the executive branch to remind people that the actions of the judiciary are, indeed, actions of the government — not some supragovernment with incorruptible judgment as to the law and its own powers.