A federal district judge in the Western District of Pennsylvania has ruled that President Obama’s executive order on immigration is unconstitutional.
For those of us who know the track record of the judge – President George W. Bush appointee Arthur Schwab – the ruling comes as no surprise.
Paul Gordon of People for the American Way has already explained how Judge Schwab’s opinion betrays his ideological opposition to the president’s executive order. For example, Judge Schwab reached to declare the new policy unconstitutional without first deciding whether the policy even applies to the defendant in this case. He also harps on statements that President Obama made about immigration reform in 2011—statements that, Gordon points out, “make great fodder for Fox News, [but] don’t address the current executive actions, and the only reason to include them in a judicial opinion is to score political points.”
But while Judge Schwab’s opinion is troubling, it isn’t the first time his political views have trumped his duty to be an impartial judge.
In 2005, famed forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht had a public feud with Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala over Zappala’s failure to investigate or prosecute white police officers who had allegedly killed black citizens. Soon after, Wecht was indicted on public corruption charges that many believed to be politically motivated.
Judge Schwab was assigned to the case, and made a number of unorthodox rulings against Wecht. In one instance, he prohibited Wecht from making nearly any objection to the government’s 240,000 pages of evidence — including an objection arguing that some of the evidence was illegally seized. In another ruling, Schwab kept the names of the jurors under seal.
The first trial resulted in a hung jury. On appeal, the Third Circuit called Schwab’s rulings “inappropriate,” “troublesome,” and “strange and unsettling,” and took the unusual step of removing him from the case. Prosecutors decided not to retry the case.
More recently, Judge Schwab wrote an opinion that criticized the National Labor Relations Board for serving as the “litigation arm of the [Service Employees International Union].”
Given Schwab’s history of playing political favorites, it is no surprise that, when the Allegheny County Bar Association conducts its annual judicial survey, Judge Schwab consistently ranks dead last among state and federal judges in both temperament and impartiality.
Faced with Judge Schwab’s latest ruling, the Third Circuit should once again reverse, ensuring that President Obama’s executive order continues to protect millions of American children and families.