Eastern District of Virginia Federal Judge, T.S. Ellis III
Featured Opinion

Judge T.S. Ellis III just embodied what Article III Judges are all about

Today, Judge T.S. Ellis III gave a smackdown to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecution team in its case against former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who was indicted in connection with the Special Counsel’s probe for conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, being an unregistered agent of foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, and false statements.

During a hearing today, Judge Ellis suggested that Mueller’s team lied about the scope of the investigation, and seek “unfettered power” as part of a play to unseat the President.

“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort,” said Judge Ellis. “You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you to lead you to Mr. Trump and an impeachment, or whatever.”

Additionally, Judge Ellis demanded the unredacted “scope memo” that congressional Republicans have sought.

Manafort’s attorneys, in their motion to dismiss the criminal case, argue that the Special Counsel does not have the authority to indict Manafort, while Mueller’s team argued that Rosenstein gave them broad authority to investigate. Mueller’s team revealed that it was using evidence and information from an earlier probe that Judge Ellis said did not “arise” from the current probe, and not within the current probe’s scope. Judge Ellis said of the prosecution team “We don’t want anyone with unfettered power.”

In demanding production of the scope memo, Mueller’s team tried to argue against its production, saying its authority is laid out within it, but the team’s authority is secret due to ongoing investigations, and concern matters of national security. Judge Ellis summed up the argument of the Special Counsel’s Office as, “We said this was what [the] investigation was about, but we are not bound by it and we were lying.” To this, Judge Ellis said: “C’mon man!,”  a common saying among NFL announcers.

This is an Article III judge doing exactly what he is supposed to do: defying political pressure. Article III, section 1 provides

The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

Article III judges receive life tenure and salary protection. These protections insulate them from political pressure and termination from political, partisan superiors, who might terminate them from the bench for making politically unpopular decisions, or for any reason at all.

The question now, is, with Judge Ellis taking this bold stand, and calling Mueller to task, what will Mueller’s team do? Will this power-hungry team seek to intimidate the judge? Will he be secretly probed, and all of it funded by you and I, with the purpose of causing him to back down from the mighty Mueller? Hopefully not.

Robert Mueller

To be sure, if Democrats had sufficient control of Congress, they would impeach Judge Ellis (do not be surprised if a few hardcore, leftist House members suggest it in the coming days).

But this is what checks and balances are about, and the role an Article III Federal Judge must fulfill. Citizens of the United States are entitled to Due Process in our federal judicial system, and especially with federal felonies charged, the defense is entitled to procedural due process. The real question here is in fact preliminary and procedural: from the outset, did Mueller have the authority to piggyback information from a pre-existing probe, having apparently nothing to do with “Russian interference” with the 2016 election, and concerning Manafort’s activities dating back to 2005? If so, what then, is the limitation of the Mueller probe? Where does it end? How far must he reach to find a crime to connect it to Trump?

As Judge Andrew Napolitano has aptly discussed, “‘collusion’ is a media and a political word; it does not describe anything in the law. What Mueller is looking for is a conspiracy, which is the easiest crime for prosecutors to prove because the crime need not have been successful. The late Justice Robert Jackson, himself a former U.S. attorney general, famously called conspiracy prosecutors’ favorite crime.” The essence of the crime of conspiracy is the unlawful agreement with at least one other person to commit some crime. It is sometimes a giveaway that a prosecution team is coming up hands empty when conspiracy is the only thing it has.

After more than a year, Mueller has found nothing on Trump, although it increasingly appears that Trump is his real target. It is to be hoped that more federal judges will stand up as Judge Ellis did today, in calling federal prosecutors to task when they are “overzealous,” a polite word for abusive and tyrannical. In doing so, they are ensuring real checks and balances between the Executive (or, in this case, the Fourth Branch of government, i.e. the deep state) and the Federal Judiciary, which is the only practical branch that can practically check prosecutors. Sadly, few do so often enough, but rather, the courts snooze through and afford prosecutors, and federal grand juries, deference and a presumption of regularity, respectively, that at this point, has become something of a cruel joke in criminal defense circles.

Regardless of the outcome of these pretrial proceedings involving Manafort, Judge Ellis certainly did his job today as an Article III judge, no matter how much Democrats, who have placed all their eggs in the Mueller basket, may wail.


About the author

George Frobisher

21 Comments

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  • Honorable Judge T.S. Ellis, thank you for speaking out on this Mueller investigation. I have been so angry that our checks and balances are not being enforced properly and the last 10 years, our branches of government has been bleeding into one! I am just one of many who want some sanity back into our system.

  • Goes to show how the government can ruin your life using the power of the Federal government. Thank you Judge Ellis for standing up and questioning these tactics and what I would call an abuse of power. Alinsky tactics and something you would see from Leninist and the KGB. Whose colluding? The Deep State to undermine our Constitutional Republic.

    • Judge Ellis, thank you for your comments to the Mueller team. I am so proud of you and what you stand for. Thank you again.

  • He’s not dismissing the case. He was just mouthing off, has no legal reasoning for what he said.

  • I can’t believe this man is a judge, his comments were totally unprofessional and in saying that, I’m leaning towards him being pressured by Comrade Trumpsky and/or his GOP cronies.

  • Judge Ellis is not intimidated and he regularly holds both sides to account. Anyone who knows him would not be wont to initiate a probe, secret or otherwise. The hype here and elsewhere is overplayed. We are only hearing his push against one side, likely a very limited version of the courtroom events.

  • Our legal system is founded on the theory of precedence! Bench decisions look for support in past cases. It is not uncommon for prosecutors to proceed against a criminal act in order to pressure the accused to divulge info or incriminate another. Judge Ellis may have been appointed by Reagan, but he has a traditional legal background and will not likely go against established practice. What is uncommon though, is a judge voicing an opinion on the prosecution’s motives and thereby suggesting that the Manafort pathway should be closed because the prosecution does not feel as strongly about one form of criminal behavior as it does for another.

  • Nothing on Trump? What about Trump Tower meeting? Mueller has a right to find out everything g said at that meeting.

    • OMFG!!! I know it’s been a month since you wrote this comment but I can’t let it slide. How did that Trump tower meeting take place at all? The Russian lawyer wasn’t allowed to enter the United States. Loretta Lynch to the rescue. She tells the US attorney for the southern district of New York, Preet Bharara (Same D-bag who was brutal with Dinesh and refused to resign when Trump made the requesrt) to sign some special permission to allow her in. While here she stopped by Fusion GPS or met with Simpson or something like that. Do you leftists even begin to pay attention? The Trump Tower meeting was a setup from minute one. The guy who arranged it just by pure random chance knows Hillary as well. They haven’t made a big deal about it because of the special permission that was required for her to enter the country is common knowledge.

  • The scurrilous scoundrels on the Right love checks and. just as long as the balance is tipped in their favor. When not, it’s all Deep State hogwash.

    • Edit:
      The scurrilous scoundrels on the Right love checks and balances, just as long as the balance is tipped in their favor. When not, it’s all Deep State hogwash.

  • Having the last name as mine also just want to wish you good luck in ENDING MUELLER’S WITCH HUNT with him bringing FALSE CHARGES into your court room on a RUSSIAN COMPANY that did not exist till after the charges were made. FELONY in FALSE REPORTING ON AN LEGAL DOCUMENT IS A BIG CRIME and would like to see you haul MUELLER UP IN FRONT OF YOU and kick BUTT BIG TIME for INSERECTION AS WELL in the attempt to over throw the USA GOVT. Thank you Judge, DICK ELLIS.

  • Seriously, this judge has lost his mind. Just look up his completely negligent rulings on recent copyright cases. Last one didn’t even cite case law (b/c it would have been the opposite of his inane opinion!) Time for him to leave the bench. Thanks for your ‘service’, now retire.

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