May 15, 2020
Judge Emmet Sullivan’s decision to appoint a retired federal judge to argue against the Justice Department’s entirely proper decision to end the criminal prosecution of General Michael Flynn is designed to circumvent the constitutional limitation on the jurisdiction of federal judges. The Constitution limits this jurisdiction to actual cases and controversies. There must be disagreement between the parties that requires resolution by a judge. If the parties agree, there is nothing for the judge to decide.
In the Flynn case, the prosecution and defense both agree that the case should be dropped. Because there is no longer any controversy between the parties to be resolved, there is no longer any case properly before the judge. His only job is to enter an order vacating the guilty plea and dismissing the case with prejudice.
But Judge Sullivan does not want to do that. He apparently thinks Flynn belongs in prison. He has as much as said that. So, he has manufactured a fake controversy by appointing a new prosecutor because evidently he does not like what the constitutionally authorized prosecutor — the Attorney General — has decided. The new prosecutor has been tasked to argue for the result that Judge Sullivan prefers. But under our constitutional system of separation of powers, the new prosecutor has no standing to make such an argument. He is not a member of the executive branch, which is the only branch authorized to make prosecutorial decisions. He was appointed by a member of the judicial branch to perform an executive function — a clear violation of the separation of powers, which allocates the power to prosecute to the executive, not judicial, branch.
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