I am writing you today to express my grave concern over your public attack against the recent sentence rendered by Walworth County Circuit Court Judge David Reddy relating to Melody Butt, whose infant twins drowned in the bathtub while she slept. Certainly, I am anguished over the negligence on the part of a mother that resulted in the tragic deaths of her two young children. I am also troubled that as legislators, you used your elected “positions” to criticize Judge Reddy’s decision in this one case.

      The increasing political attacks on the judiciary are diminishing the independence of the entire judiciary, and equally, undermining the public’s perception and confidence in it.

      Legislators may base their decisions on public opinion polls, but judges may not. The art of judging is not simple but rather is complex. Please believe me that it is not easy to sit on the bench in judgment of the people who come before you.

      There is little that sitting judges can do when attacked by legislators, as the Code of Judicial Conduct generally prohibits public comments on specific cases. There are, as you are well aware, three separate – but equal – branches of government. The role of judges is quite different from the role of legislators. I must warn you that your attacks threaten to weaken the constitutional structure of this nation.

      You letter addressed to the State of Wisconsin Correction Officials acknowledged that the young children died as a result of the “gross negligence and irresponsible actions of their mother.” Nowhere was there any indication that this mother had the “criminal intent” to have her children drown while she slept.

      I must acknowledge that everyone in the United States has a First Amendment right to be a demagogue and to make irresponsible criticism. However, in your positions as legislators, it was inappropriate to state that Judge Reddy’s sentence fell “well short of a suitable response to such a heinous act” or was “unfathomable.”

      I do not know if the sentence was appropriate or not. I wasn’t in the court room; I did not review the presentence report; I did not observe the defendant’s demeanor; and I did not hear the arguments of the prosecutor or defense counsel. Thus, I can make no comments concerning the sentence.

      I write this letter to express my disapproval of your public, unfair attacks and efforts to intimidate the judiciary. You have focused only on the result of a single decision without considering the underlying facts and the legal principles which govern Judge Reddy’s ruling in this one case.

      It is easy for a politician in hindsight to criticize a judge for a decision or sentence. You cannot simply legislate sentences; one size does not fit all in the justice system. If you think that you can dispense justice better, then perhaps you should run for the elected position of judge – and act as judge and jury – but you better be ready for the daily criticism of you definition of “justice.”

Edward F. Thompson,

Town of Delavan

Municipal Judge

 
 

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