A Washington-state Supreme Court judge has outed himself as the man who called Attorney General Michael Mukasey a “tyrant” during the Nov. 20 speech at the Federalist Society dinner, where Mukasey later collapsed.
In a statement to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Justice Richard Sanders says he felt compelled to “speak out" as a matter of conscience after the Attorney General defended the Bush administration’s record on Guantanamo Bay and the Geneva Conventions.
He says he was prompted to act after the audience's amusement over Mukasey’s comments that Al Qaeda is “not, the last time I checked” a signatory to the Geneva accords. “Although the United States is a signatory, and these Conventions prohibit torture, the audience laughed. Attorney General Mukasey received a standing ovation,” says Sanders. “The program provided no opportunity for questions or response, and I felt compelled to speak out."
Justice Sanders says he “passionately disagrees” with Mukasey’s views. “I hope those who know my jurisprudence will agree that to truly love the Constitution is to uphold it, to speak out for it, not just in times of peace and prosperity, but also in times of chaos and crisis,” he said.
The judge denies he “heckled” the Attorney General or disrupted the meeting. He left the dinner immediately after making his comments and says he wasn’t aware of Mukasey’s collapse, which occurred about 15 minutes later, until the following day.
It's not clear if Mukasey heard the judge's comments, which occurred about 17 minutes into the speech. The Journal notes that Mukasey briefly glanced in Justice Sanders' direction and then resumed speaking. There is no suggestion the disruption was related to the Attorney General's later collapse.
It remains to be seen whether there will be any official fallout from the judge's outburst. Justice Sanders told the Seattle Times he was exercising his right of free speech and does not believe he breached Washington's Code of Judicial Conduct, which states that a judge's public activities should "not detract from the dignity of their office."
Justice Sanders ends his statement by offering his wishes that the Attorney General, “despite our vastly different views on what constitutes upholding the rule of law," continues his recovery and remains in good health.