The Chatigny file
Monday, June 14th at 9:00PM EDT
On February 4, 2010, President Obama nominated Judge Robert N. Chatigny to be elevated to the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. From the President’s press release on the subject:
Judge Robert Neil Chatigny has served as a U.S. District Judge for the District of Connecticut since 1994. He was Chief Judge of the Court from 2003 to 2009. Judge Chatigny is being nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
The Senate Judiciary Committee discharged the nomination of Judge Chatigny last week on a 11-7 vote, with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) abstaining, sending the nomination to the full Senate. Below is a video taken from Chantigny’s hearing and interviews done with Chatigny while incarcerated.
WARNING: This video documenting Judge Chatigny’s actions in presiding over a murder trial and during subsequent appeals for Michael Ross, the “Roadside Strangler,” is disturbing, yet important to watch in full to understand the case being made against the President’s nominee. Please be aware that during the interview with Ross, some very disturbing elements of his crime and his fantasies about his serial killings are discussed in graphic detail.
According to CNS News the case against Judge Chatigny for being confirmed by the United States Senate centers on the murder trial of Michael Ross, who in January 2005 was slated to be the first person executed in Connecticut in more than four decades, and his leniency with other sex offenders:
U.S. District Judge Robert Chatigny of Connecticut took what many considered extraordinary judicial actions in 2005 to prevent the execution of a serial killer, and the judge also has a record of lenient sentencing for sex offenders.
The Senate may consider this nomination in the near future and this calls into question the President’s “Empathy Standard.” Now, the President may have not been fully aware of the serious allegations against Judge Chatigny when the nomination was sent to the Senate. Yet this Administration can’t plead ignorance after testimony of Judge Chatigny and debate last week preceding the vote of the full Senate Judiciary Committee. The President described his Empathy Standard as follows in a press briefing on May 1, 2009 after being notified of Justice David Souter’s resignation:
I will seek someone who understands that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook; it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives, whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation. I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people’s hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.”
This is the President’s own description of the Empathy Standard. One would hope that this Empathy Standard is not used as a pre-text by judges to substitute their own judgement for the written law of the land. Furthermore, now that information has been presented in an open hearing that calls into question Chatigny’s version of the Empathy Standard, the President should have second thoughts about the nomination.
The CNS News story describes the Michael Ross case as follows:
After Ross, who killed eight women ages 14-25, decided to drop all appeals and be executed, the state’s public defender office argued that he was not competent to make that decision – despite previous competency evaluations that showed he was capable. Ross then fired his public defenders and hired a private attorney, T.R. Paulding, who had the unusual role of defending his client’s right to be executed. After the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in Ross’ favor to proceed with the execution, the public defender’s office brought its case to U.S. District Court, with Chatigny presiding. Chatigny ruled in favor of the public defenders’ argument that Ross had “death row syndrome,” which means the conditions on death row are so unpleasant it caused depression and made him want to die, thus he wasn’t capable of making a life or death decision on his own.
After losing in the Connecticut Supreme Court, one would think that Judge Chatigny would stand down, yet he acted as if he was emotionally invested in getting Ross out of the death penalty.
The case moved quickly to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned Chatigny’s decision and ruled in favor of executing Ross in January 2005. Before the high court even ruled, Chatigny spoke to Paulding, Ross’ attorney, in a conference call. Judge Chatigny said Ross “never should have been convicted, or if convicted, he never should have been sentenced to death,” according to news accounts citing the transcript of the conference call. Chatigny went on to tell Ross’ lawyer, “You better be prepared to deal with me” and, “I’ll have your law license.” After the call, Paulding asked to postpone the execution. The state of Connecticut had to comply, just as it would have if Ross had asked for an appeal. After a six-day competency hearing, a state Superior Court judge ruled in April 2005 that Ross was competent to forgo his appeals. He was subsequently executed on May 2005.
Threats issued by Judge Chatigny are beyond the pale. Even if Judge Chatigny opposes the Death Penalty, he should have respected the will of the Courts in confirming the death sentence of Michael Ross. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) said of the nomination:
This judge demonstrated this case was about him and not about the victims or the defendant.
hogan wrote on Red State in April that Chanigny “has acted irresponsibly, arrogantly and seemingly unethically” as a federal district judge. hogan’s excellent post further discusses the rational for the Senate to reject Chatigny’s nomination.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) argued against Chatigny last week and spoke of his objections to Judge Chatigny being elevated to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals:
Presumably, this controversy ends if the President withdraws the nomination of Judge Robert N. Chatigny to be elevated to the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. Alternatively, the Senate may just refuse to schedule a vote on this nomination hoping that this controversy goes away. If this nomination moves forward, in the light of the evidence presented against Judge Chatigny, this will call into question the President’s version of the Empathy Standard and his judgement in the types of people he is willing to send to the United States Senate for confirmation to the federal courts.
Who Is Robert Chatigny?
Obama’s Latest Liberal Activist Judicial Nominee Goes Before Senate Panel Today Despite Record Of Bending Law To Protect Sex Offenders And Murderers. Chatigny’s decisions gave unwarranted protections to dangerous sex offenders, including a decision ultimately overturned by the supreme court.
In 2000, Chatigny Ruled That Since A Sex Offender Helped Children “Cultivate An Interest In Music,” It Balanced Out “His Possession Of Child Pornography” Earning Him A Reduced Sentence. “It doesn’t seem this condition has resurfaced,” he said. He stressed that [Philip A. Bunker] was being prosecuted only for possessing child pornography and that Bunker had for years helped children cultivate an interest in music. Judge Robert N. Chatigny did note Bunker’s long history of public service but rebuked him for his crime. He sentenced Bunker to 15 months in prison and a $4,000 fine for possession of child pornography. The sentence was the minimum allowed under federal sentencing guidelines. Bunker could have faced up to 21 months in prison.” (Lisa Goldberg, “Retired Teacher Gets 15 Months Child Pornography Case Ends,” The Hartford Courant, 7/15/00)
In 2001, Chatigny Overturned Connecticut’s “Online Sex-Offender Registry” Claiming That It “Violated The Rights” Of Some Sex-Offenders. “A federal judge’s ruling overturning part of the state’s new law establishing an online sex-offender registry prompted lawmakers yesterday to offer amendments to the law. On Monday, Judge Robert Chatigny of Federal District Court ruled that the registry violated the rights of some ‘nondangerous registrants’ because they had no way to appeal. The speaker of the House, Moira K. Lyons, a Democrat, proposed an amendment to allow registrants to petition a judge to be removed from the list. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he would appeal the ruling.” (Paul Zielbauer, “Hartford: Offender Law To Be Amended,” The New York Times, 4/5/01)
And “Ordered The State Police …To Remove It Permanently From The Internet.” “State officials shut down Connecticut’s online sex-offender registry this morning, complying with a permanent order from a federal judge who had ruled that the state’s method of placing people on it was unconstitutional….On Tuesday, Judge Robert N. Chatigny of Federal District Court ordered the state police, who administer the online database, to remove it permanently from the Internet by today.” (Paul Zielbauer, “Hartford’s Sex-Offender Registry Shut Down After Judge’s Order,” The New York Times, 5/19/01)
Democrat Attorney General Richard Blumenthal Called Chatigny’s Actions “Dead Wrong And Dangerous.” “Mr. Blumenthal asked the judge to wait until the appeals process was complete before carrying out his decision … Mr. Blumenthal called the decision ‘dead wrong and dangerous’ and said he would appeal immediately.” (“Judge Bans Public Access To Sex Offender List,” The New York Times, 5/17/01)
And Blumenthal Said “Public Safety Will Be In Danger” Due To Chatigny’s Reckless Ruling. “‘We do believe the public safety will be in danger,’ Mr. Blumenthal told the judge. ‘What about a sex offender living across from a school? That is the reason for Megan’s Law.'” (“Judge Bans Public Access To Sex Offender List,” The New York Times, 5/17/01)
That’s Why The United States Supreme Court, In A Unanimous Opinion, Reversed Chatigny’s Decision. “We granted certiorari to determine whether the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit properly enjoined the public disclosure of Connecticut’s sex offender registry … Connecticut, however, has decided that the registry requirement shall be based on the fact of previous conviction, not the fact of current dangerousness. Indeed, the public registry explicitly states that officials have not determined that any registrant is currently dangerous. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals because due process does not require the opportunity to prove a fact that is not material to the State’s statutory scheme.” (Connecticut Department of Public Safety v. Doe, 538 U.S. 1 (2003), U.S. Supreme Court, 3/5/03)
INSTEAD OF RECUSING HIMSELF FROM THE CASE,
CHATIGNY DELAYED EXECUTION OF SERIAL KILLER HE ONCE DEFENDED AS ATTORNEY …
In 1987, Michael Ross Admitted To Raping And Murdering Eight Women Across Connecticut And New York, And Was Sentenced To Death By A Jury. “Ross admits killing eight young women in Connecticut and New York between 1981 and 1984. He was deemed competent last month by a doctor appointed by the Connecticut Supreme Court. Ross was sentenced to death in 1987.Ross’ victims were 14 to 25 when he strangled them to death. Ross admitted raping all but one of them first. Six of his victims were from Connecticut. Ross received his death sentence in 1987 in the cases of four victims.” (Phil Hirschkorn, “Appeals Court Halts Ross Execution,” CNN, 1/25/05)
But In 2005, Chatigny Ignored A Connecticut “Supreme Court Decision That Had Lifted A Stay” Of Ross’ Execution. “Five GOP state legislators yesterday called on Congress to investigate a federal judge’s aggressive tactics that led to the postponement of what would have been New England’s first execution in 45 years. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chatigny last week berated the attorney for convicted killer Michael Ross, saying the lawyer was ‘terribly, terribly wrong’ in aiding Ross’ effort to be put to death. The legislators also claim Chatigny acted inappropriately by ignoring a Supreme Court decision that had lifted a stay of execution. They called for him to step aside in the case.” (Nation Digest, “Connecticut Legislators Want Judge Investigated,” The Seattle Times, 2/3/05)
Chatigny Did Not Recuse Himself From The Case Even Though He Was On Ross’ Defense Team “13 Years Earlier.” “[T]hey allege that Judge Chatigny committed misconduct in failing to recuse himself (or at least reveal the facts) where, 13 years earlier, as an attorney in private practice representing the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (“CCDLA”) he had a brief involvement in Ross’s case.” (Report To The Judicial Council Of The Second Circuit, “Investigate Allegations of Judicial Misconduct,” 7/11/06)
Chatigny “Abandoned Neutrality And Became An Advocate On Behalf Of Saving Ross From Execution.” “[T]he Complaints allege that in the course of these proceedings Judge Chatigny abandoned neutrality and became an advocate on behalf of saving Ross from execution, exceeding his judicial authority and defying the rulings of higher courts.” (Report To The Judicial Council Of The Second Circuit, “Investigate Allegations of Judicial Misconduct,” 7/11/06)
Chatigny Said That Ross “Never Should Have Been Convicted.” “But looking at the record in a light most favorable to Mr. Ross, he never should have been convicted.” (U.S. District Court For The District Of Connecticut, “Telephone Conference Before: Hon. Robert N. Chatigny,” Chief U.S.D.J., (465 F.3d at 542) 1/28/05)
Chatigny Said He Couldn’t “Live With” Sending Convicted Serial Killer Ross To His Death. “Ross has said he wants to die to end the anguish of his victims’ families. But U.S. District Judge Robert Chatigny said evidence including accounts from another inmate and a retired deputy warden have indicated that deplorable death row conditions may have played a significant role in Ross’ decision. ‘I see this happening and I can’t live with it myself,’ Chatigny said in a telephone conference with Paulding, according to court records. ‘What you are doing is terribly, terribly wrong. No matter how well motivated you are, you have a client whose competence is in serious doubt and you don’t know what you’re talking about.'” (“Conn. Execution Of Serial Killer Postponed, The Associated Press, 1/29/05)
Chatigny Said He Never Should Have Been Sentenced To Death Because “His Sexual Sadism, Which Was Found By Every Single Person Who Looked At Him, Is Clearly A Mitigating Factor.” (U.S. District Court For The District Of Connecticut, “Telephone Conference Before: Hon. Robert N. Chatigny,” Chief U.S.D.J., 1/28/05)
Chatigny Believed Ross “May Be The Least Culpable, The Least, Of The People On Death Row.” “I suggest to you that Michael Ross may be the least culpable, the least, of the people on death row…..So when he says, I feel that I’m the victim of a miscarriage of justice because they didn’t treat it as a mitigating factor, I can well understand where he’s coming from.” (U.S. District Court For The District Of Connecticut, “Telephone Conference Before: Hon. Robert N. Chatigny,” Chief U.S.D.J., (465 F.3d at 542) 1/28/05)
AND WAS CHARGED WITH JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT FOR THREATENING LAWYERS IN ROSS CASE
In 2005, “Seven State Prosecutors … Filed Complaints Against Federal Judge Robert N. Chatigny, Whose Stern Lecture And Threats To A Defense Lawyer Led To A Postponement Of Serial Killer Michael Ross’ Execution In January.” (“Complaints Filed Against Judge Who Derailed Ross’ Execution,” The Associated Press, 4/27/05)
Chatigny Threatened Ross’ Lawyer: “You Better Be Prepared To Deal With Me … I’ll Have Your Law License.” “So I warn you, Mr. Paulding, between now and whatever happens Sunday night, you better be prepared to live with yourself for the rest of your life. And you better be prepared to deal with me if in the wake of this an investigation is conducted and it turns out that what Lopez says and what this former program director says is true, because I’ll have your law license.” (U.S. District Court For The District Of Connecticut, “Telephone Conference Before: Hon. Robert N. Chatigny,” Chief U.S.D.J., (465 F.3d at 542) 1/28/05)
Chatigny’s “Improper Threatening Conduct … Interfered With Both Paulding’s Rights As Counsel And Ross’s Right To Choose His Counsel.” “[T]he Complaints allege that Judge Chatigny’s efforts to persuade Paulding to investigate and pursue the issue of Ross’s competence included improper threatening conduct and interfered with both Paulding’s rights as counsel and Ross’s right to choose his counsel.” (Report To The Judicial Council Of The Second Circuit, “Investigate Allegations of Judicial Misconduct,” 7/11/06)