Chief Judge Linda R. Reade in Courtroom
Des Moines, IA - The court schedule of a federal judge who faces allegations of bias in the financial fraud trial of Sholom Rubashkin has raised fresh questions about judicial impartiality.
Defense attorneys argue that Rubashkin, who is serving a 27-year sentence, deserves a new trial because U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade failed to disclose all of the meetings she held with prosecutors before a 2008 immigration raid on Agriprocessors, a kosher meatpacking plant in northeast Iowa where Rubashkin served as an executive.
Oral arguments are scheduled for the afternoon of June 15 at the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.
That morning, Reade - a judge in the Northern District of Iowa temporarily filling in on the appeals court - will hear cases with two of the three judges who will later listen to arguments in Rubashkin’s appeal. Reade is also scheduled to sit with the same judges a day earlier.
The scheduling is unfortunate because the subject of the appeal is judicial impartiality, said Steven Lubet, a law professor at Northwestern University.
However, he said he doesn’t expect it to disqualify any of the judges from hearing the case.
“I would call it awkward, but I don’t think there’s anything more to say about it,” he said.
The court does not view the schedule as a problem because judges “studiously avoid discussing pending cases,” said Michael Gans, clerk of court for the 8th Circuit.
“I’m sure if the two judges who were sitting on the case thought it presented a problem, they would have directed me to make other arrangements,” Gans said.
Reade’s decision to sit on Rubashkin’s 2009 fraud trial, in which he was convicted of 86 fraud charges, has drawn criticism from many legal experts.
Reade had previously acknowledged that she worked with the prosecution on logistics before the raid to ensure attorneys and interpreters would be available for the 389 workers arrested on immigration charges, but offered no further details.
The defense argued Reade failed to disclose that she began meeting with law enforcement officials more than six months before the raid, and that she discussed topics far beyond “logistical cooperation.”
Lubet, the law professor, said he can’t imagine why Reade decided to sit on the trial.
“Why not have a judge who had nothing to do with the prosecution, instead of one who had devoted significant time and energy into facilitating it?” he said.
Read more at The Des Moines Register