Before Attorney General Michael Mukasey collapsed during his Federalist Society speech on Thursday night, someone in the audience disrupted the remarks. The heckler reportedly shouted “Tyrant!” Lawyer Wendy Long reported on Fox News last night that the heckler was Washington State Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders.
I dearly hope this is not true.
I knew, respected, and greatly admired Justice Sanders when I worked at the Seattle Times in the 1990s. I was alone on the editorial board in supporting his judicial candidacy (judges are elected in Washington state) and defended him when bitter detractors tried to haul him up on bogus judicial misconduct charges because he had the nerve to briefly address a crowd of pro-life activists at a state Capitol event. Here’s what he said:
“I want to give all of you my best wishes in this celebration of human life. Nothing is, nor should be, more fundamental in our legal system than the preservation and protection of innocent human life. By coincidence, or perhaps by providence, my formal induction to the Washington State Supreme Court occurred about an hour ago. I owe my election to many of the people who are here today and I’m here to say thank you very much and good luck. Our mutual pursuit of justice requires a lifetime of dedication and courage. Keep up the good work.”
He was later cleared of those ridiculous ethics violations.
I lost touch with him after leaving Seattle. But while I was there, this is the Justice Sanders I knew:
He was a staunch defender of life, liberty, and the state Constitution — and a brilliant thinker on private property, Second Amendment, and free speech rights. He was deeply committed to individual rights, unafraid to challenge liberal orthodoxy, and always thoughtful and gracious in his demeanor. He’s been elected three times to the high court and has been one of the most prolific writers on the bench.
The Federalist Society is renowned for bringing together the sharpest conservative and libertarian legal minds and fostering the highest order of intellectual exchange.
It is no place for emotional Code Pink-style protests — let alone injudicious outbursts from sitting judges.
I sent Justice Sanders an e-mail last night asking him if he was indeed the heckler. I’ll let you know the outcome.
In the meantime, the Federalist Society has posted full video of AG Mukasey’s appearance. Watch it here. Mukasey sent a follow-up note to FedSoc members after his collapse:
Well, as I was saying…
Let me please begin by underscoring what an honor it was to speak to you last night. I am, as you might imagine, quite embarrassed to have collapsed last night. I hope that embarrassment is not the product of undue human pride, or at least not principally so. I am embarrassed in part because I fear I ruined your evening and caused you concern – for that I am truly sorry. Equally important, I hope the shortened conclusion of the speech did not detract from the message I hoped to convey: Specifically that the issues of law and policy relating to our continuing national security are real, and are worthy of the most careful thought and deliberation so as to keep the American people safe.
The Federalist Society has spent the last 25-plus years promoting thoughtful and fair debate concerning the critical legal and public policy issues facing our nation. It was an honor to address you last night, and I urge you to continue the fine efforts of the Federalist Society in the future.
Finally, I was truly humbled to hear all of the prayers and well wishes sent on my behalf from attendees at the dinner. Thank you all. I am, fortunately, well, and I too pray for all of our good health and for the future of the Nation we all love.
Very Truly Yours,
Update 2:15pm Eastern: Still no response, but this essay from Justice Sanders decrying the Bush administration’s “War on Liberty” is telling.