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Sanders: I did not “heckle”

November 26th, 2008 by Steven Gardner

When I read on an Olympian blog that Washington Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders didn’t heckle U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey during a Federalist Society speech in which Mukasey collapsed, I read that to mean that Sanders wasn’t the one yelling “Tyrant.” You can hear it at this link, once you get to 17:28. The collapse happens much later and if that’s all you want to see you can see it quickly on YouTube.

If you go to the blog I linked, you’ll read that the speculation that it was Sanders began on Fox News, then Michelle Malkin wrote that she hoped it wasn’t Sanders, because “I knew, respected, and greatly admired Justice Sanders when I worked at the Seattle Times in the 1990s.”

What Sanders was reported as telling the Olympian’s Adam Wilson was, “As to that, I don’t have any comment. But I wasn’t there when he collapsed. I heard it on television the next morning, I was very sorry to hear it.”

In that quote he’s not saying he didn’t say it, he’s saying he wasn’t there when Mukasey collapsed, which, given how long after the “Tyrant” yell Mukasey’s collapse was, is entirely plausible.

Nonetheless, Sanders now admits he was the guy. In a statement he released he wrote, “The program provided no opportunity for questions or response, and I felt compelled to speak out. I stood up, and said, ‘tyrant,’ and then left the meeting. No one else said anything. I believe we must speak our conscience in moments that demand it, even if we are but one voice.”

He does not characterize it as heckling. You can read the entire comment below.

I want to set the record straight about a dinner I attended on November 20, in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Federalist Society — a conservative and libertarian legal group of which I am a member. Attorney General Michael Mukasey was the keynote speaker.

In his speech, Attorney General Mukasey justified the Bush administration’s policies in the War on Terror, which included denying meaningful hearings for prisoners in Guantanamo, and other questionable tactics, all in the name of national security. Mr. Mukasey said those who criticize the Administration for abandoning provisions of the Geneva Conventions fail to recognize that “… Al Qaeda [is] an international terrorist group, and not, the last time I checked, a signatory to the Conventions.” Although the United States is a signatory, and these Conventions prohibit torture, the audience laughed. Attorney General Mukasey received a standing ovation. I passionately disagree with these views: the government must never set aside the Constitution; domestic and international law forbids torture; and access to the writ of habeas corpus should not be denied.

The program provided no opportunity for questions or response, and I felt compelled to speak out. I stood up, and said, “tyrant,” and then left the meeting. No one else said anything. I believe we must speak our conscience in moments that demand it, even if we are but one voice.

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.

I did not “heckle” Attorney General Mukasey, and I did not disrupt the meeting, as those who watch the video of his speech on the Federalist Society’s website will discover. I left before Mr. Mukasey had his frightening collapse. I learned of his collapse later, from news reports. It should go without saying that, despite our vastly different views on what constitutes upholding the rule of law, I hope he continues to recover and remain in good health.

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3 Responses to “Sanders: I did not “heckle””

  1. James M. Olsen, Shining City Media Says:

    Judicial temperament — not !! And this person is in a position of authority in our court system. Just what Washington State needs — more bad publicity. Can he be reprimanded by his judicial peers? How about by his political donors? Oy vey !

  2. Builder Says:

    I bet Sanders, regarded as a hero of conservatives and libertarians, is now the pride of urban areas like Seattle and San Francisco. After all, they, too, would like to take the Bush Administration to task on the same issues.

  3. Guy Beckett Says:

    Justice Sanders is beholden to no one. My view is that what he did was uniquely patriotic. We should not disparage him, we should re-elect him and others who are not afraid to call out tyranny when it is in view.

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