WASHINGTON, D.C., January 9, 2018 – Alliance for Justice today released a report on the record of Kurt Engelhardt, Donald Trump’s nominee for a seat on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. AFJ President Nan Aron released the following statement:
“Judge Kurt Engelhardt was responsible for throwing out the convictions of five police officers after one of the most painful events in New Orleans history: the lethal shootings of unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Senators evaluating his nomination deserve answers about that widely-criticized ruling as well as a number of other decisions Engelhardt has made as a federal district judge in Louisiana. Those include rulings that reveal he takes a very dim view of sexual harassment claims, as well as a narrow view of the rights of accused persons in our criminal justice system.”
Among other things, the AFJ report finds:
- Engelhardt’s opinion in the Danziger Bridge shooting and cover-up case was so notable for its heated sentiments and rhetoric, and his decision to overturn the convictions of five police officers so extreme, that The Washington Post reported that the judge seemed “so exasperated and infuriated with prosecutors, for a host of reasons not confined to the online postings, that he has thrown out the officers’convictions in a fit of pique.”
- Engelhardt’s ruling in Truvia v. Julian denied the civil rights claims of two African-American plaintiffs who were held in prison for 27 years before they found out that exculpatory evidence had been withheld at their trial. This, despite the fact that the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office had been repeatedly accused of withholding evidence that could exonerate defendants, and the U.S. Supreme Court had said the office committed “blatant and repeated violations” in this regard.
- Engelhardt has a troubling record with regard to sexual harassment claims, often going out of his way to rule that allegations do not rise to the level of objectively hostile conduct and to keep cases from even being heard by a jury.
- Engelhardt should be asked about his rulings in several criminal cases, including a case in which a defendant remained in custody for more than 400 days without going to trial, and a case in which Engelhardt upheld a defendant’s prison sentence that was more than double what was considered the upper range of a customary prison term for his crime.