Stamford Superior Court Judge John Redmond Downey did half of the right thing last week by withdrawing his name from consideration as a nominee to the Appellate Court. If he cares at all for the independence of the judiciary, he will take the next step and turn in his robe. He has no business presiding over litigation of any sort in Connecticut.
For reasons only Freud can fathom, Governor Rip Van Rell nominated Downey to a spot on the Appellate Court, proving once again that her office's idea of evaluating judicial candidates resembles a drunken game of spin the bottle.
Consider first Downey's use of his office to prattle about the likes of Strom Thurmond. Downey told a captive audience of defendants at an arraignment that Thurmond was a "great American" remembered for his "contributions to society."
Thurmond never recovered from the South's defeat in the Civil War. Until the end of his life, he was a states' rights man; for a good part of his life, he was also a racist.
The one-time governor of South Carolina ran for president of the United States as a segregationist Dixiecrat. In one speech, he proclaimed: "I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there's not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches."
More troubling is Downey's apparent xenophobia. On more than one occasion, he has let it be known that, in his crabbed universe, only citizens and legal residents of the United States have legal rights in this state.
The judge is reported to have quipped in one pretrial that a case should be dismissed because one of the parties was an illegal alien. In another case, Downey appears to have ruled that he would not hear a case if one of the litigants could not produce documentation proving they were in the country legally.
Listen to this man who coveted a seat on the Appellate Court: "Only people who are legally here in the United States, in my [opinion] are entitled to the rights and privileges that we extend to U.S. citizens. Why should a person become a U.S. citizen if they can otherwise enjoy the same rights as the rest of us, especially after 9/11?"
The judge believes that it is an unsettled area of law whether illegal aliens can use the Connecticut courts. Perhaps the judge has been too busy frying turkeys in peanut oil — a Deep South treat — to read up on the Fourteenth Amendment. All persons are entitled to equal protection of the law. And that includes access to the courts.
Judge Downey told lawmakers at his confirmation hearing he now realizes it was wrong to eulogize Thurmond from the bench. He won't do it again, he promised. Damn, all that and no illegal aliens to tend his lawn!
In his pusillanimous tripe of a letter withdrawing his name from Appellate Court consideration, the judge claims he now knows aliens have rights in our courts, too. He didn't go on to explain whether he thought the 13th Amendment, banning slavery, was good law in Connecticut.
Downey may be a man of honor. If so, he should step down. He's brought a boat load of G. Harrold Carswell sleaze to the state. Why not retire him to a swamp in Mississippi?
Printed with permission of The Connecticut Law Tribune.