Washington, D.C., September 26, 2017 – Alliance for Justice today released a report on the record of Stephanos Bibas, President Trump’s nominee for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. AFJ President Nan Aron released the following statement:
“Stephanos Bibas has shown some notable lapses in judgement in his career and writings, and he needs to fully satisfy senators and the American people that he can carry out the duties of a federal judge responsibly and with respect for the rights of all. Bibas has spent most of his life as an academic, but we are especially concerned about a possible misuse of his authority during his brief tenure as a federal prosecutor early in his career. He also has writings that raise questions about his positions on mass incarceration, drug addiction, and certain constitutional rights. The onus is on him to alleviate concerns about his approach to the rights of individuals who might find themselves before him in court.”
Among other things, AFJ’s report notes:
- Bibas has written about the treatment of prisoners in ways that are unsettling and raise questions about his respect for their constitutional rights. In a 2012 book, he praises colonial-era punishments such as public whippings that inflict pain and humiliation on convicted persons, suggesting that public shaming is not practiced enough today. This philosophy regarding punishment would be seriously harmful in a federal judge charged with reviewing countless sentencing decisions that will have enormous and lasting impacts on the lives of real people. Bibas also argues that prisoners could be forcefully conscripted into the military.
- In an article, Bibas insisted that while over-incarceration is real, it is not reflective of racial disparities in the justice system or society as a whole as the “liberal” “narrative” maintains. He also argued that the growth in the prison population was “driven mainly by violent and property crime, not drugs.”
- Bibas has shown a serious misunderstanding about the nature of drug addiction, having argued that it is not a disease but something that addicts can choose to overcome.
- Bibas signed an open letter criticizing the University of Pennsylvania’s adoption of new procedures for investigating and resolving sexual assault complaints on campus. The letter made troubling statements suggesting that victims are in part responsible for assaults, and advocated for the university to adopt an adjudicative system for these cases that closely mirrors the criminal justice system. The Supreme Court has discouraged schools, which are supposed to provide safe learning environments for all students, from attempting to replicate criminal investigations and prosecutions on campus.
- While serving as a prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, Bibas used federal prosecutorial, law enforcement, and court resources to bring charges against a cashier at a veterans’ hospital cafeteria for allegedly stealing seven dollars. On the morning of the trial, he turned over evidence corroborating the defense that records suggest he may have withheld for some time. The cashier was acquitted, and the prosecution faced scorching media criticism.