Michigan Democrats have decided to politicize the decades-long sexual abuse inflicted by former USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar on more than one hundred young women in his care. Looks like they’re taking notes from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who said while chief of staff in Obama’s White House, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”
Democrats asked Judge Rosemarie Aquilina to consider running for a seat on the Michigan Supreme Court after her indignant sentencing of Nassar recently garnered her national attention. She confirmed Monday she plans to consider the idea.
“I think if she’s interested in doing it, she could be a very good candidate,” Michigan Democratic Party chairman Brandon Dillon said, according to the Detroit News. He added, “Obviously, I think she’s proven herself to be a pretty tough judge who I think handled this Nassar case with the right combination of toughness and compassion for the victims.”
“There are some opportunities for the Supreme Court this cycle and she does have a high-profile at the moment, so it’s possible,” another connected Democrat, strategist TJ Bucholz, told the Detroit News.
Bucholz is half-right: Aquilina does have a “high-profile at the moment,” with media outlets from The New York Times, to the Guardian, to USA Today focusing on her role in the Nassar case. She made her disgust with Nassar’s crimes and admiration of his victims during their testimony in court abundantly clear, winning her kudos with many. The New York Times bestowed her with the “fierce advocate” moniker, remarking on her comments in the courtroom such as “it is my honor and privilege to sentence you,” and “I just signed your death warrant.”
But Aquilina’s courtroom comments don’t represent “toughness.” They represent a combination of glaring impropriety and vile braggadocio. Attorney and constitutional law professor Jenna Ellis exposed how the state court judge crossed the line from “impartial arbiter” to “fierce advocate” in an op-ed published by the Washington Examiner titled, “Judge Rosemarie Aquilina is No Hero, She’s a Bad Example.”
A fellow Ingham County circuit judge, William Collette, went further, telling the Detroit Free Press Nassar’s sentencing was “the most violative” he could recall. “There has to be some semblance of fairness, no matter how much you hate the person,” Collette said.
“Judge Aquilina made some very strong statements about Nassar when she announced his sentence,” Carissa Byrne Hessick recognized at PrawfsBlog. But she noted: “It is a comment that she made on a previous day — one of the days when Nassar’s many victims spoke at his sentencing hearing — that has led to a heated debate: ‘Our Constitution does not allow for cruel and unusual punishment,’ she said. ‘If it did, I have to say, I might allow what he did to all of these beautiful souls — these young women in their childhood — I would allow someone or many people to do to him what he did to others.’”
While Aquilina’s righteous anger is understandable, nothing can excuse her suggestion that a defendant should be sentenced to molestation. Aquilina’s suggestion is especially contemptible given the reality that, in the prison system, pedophiles rarely survive, absent protective custody, and even then face grave risks.
Aquilina didn’t demonstrate toughness. She showcased a temperament ill-suited to the bench — whether that be the county- court bench or the bench of the Michigan Supreme Court. But, unfortunately, when it comes to the election of judges, name recognition often trumps qualifications, which, of course, is why the Democrats sought out Aquilina in the first instance.
With Aquilina telling the Lansing State Journal on Wednesday that “she will decide ‘over the weekend’ if it’s worth running for the Michigan Supreme Court,” we will soon know whether party officials’ push to politicize Nassar’s crimes will have succeeded. For the sake of his victims, let’s hope not.