Professor Rotunda Weighs In on Propriety of Comments Attributed to Judges

The propriety of judges expressing their opinions on legal controversies outside of court hinges on how much those comments can be seen as predictive of a ruling on a pending or future case, according to legal experts such as Professor Ronald Rotunda, who commented on the matter in a recent news article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Rotunda's comments dealt specifically with the question of whether Justice Antonin Scalia's remarks in a recent speech in Switzerland concerning the rights of foreign detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were proper considering that the U.S. Supreme Court was to hear an appeal from a Guantanamo Bay detainee three weeks after Scalia's speech.

What can judges state in the court of public opinion?: The answer, say some legal experts, depends when and how much the judges actually say, Star Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities, April 3, 2006. By Pat Doyle.

"In the speech, Scalia repeated themes from his dissent in a 2004 case, when he argued that foreign combatants held at Guantanamo have no right to challenge their detention in federal courts.

"'He can talk about the prior decisions and his role in them,' said Ronald Rotunda, a professor of law at George Mason University who has written a book on legal ethics. 'If he was talking about that, and it sounds like he was, that's OK. But if he's talking about issues that are coming up, that he heard argument on [last week], that's not OK.'"