A federal appeals court judge apologized “profusely” yesterday for remarks he made last weekend at a lawyers convention comparing President Bush’s election in 2000 to the rise of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
In a letter to the court, Guido Calabresi, a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, acknowledged that he had given the impression he was taking a partisan position, opposing President Bush’s re-election. The letter was addressed to John M. Walker Jr., the chief judge of the appeals court, who released it to the press.
“In a way that occurred before but is rare in the United States, somebody came to power as a result of the illegitimate acts of a legitimate institution that had the right to put somebody in power,” Judge Calabresi told an annual meeting of the American Constitution Society in Washington on Saturday, in remarks that were first reported by The New York Sun. “That is what the Supreme Court did in Bush v. Gore; it put somebody in power,” he said, referring to the decision that cleared the way for Mr. Bush to claim victory in the election.
“The reason I emphasize that is because that is exactly what happened when Mussolini was put in by the king of Italy,” he said. “That is what happened when Hindenburg put Hitler in.”
In a cover letter also released yesterday, Judge Walker said, “I am pleased that Judge Calabresi has promptly recognized that his remarks could too easily be taken as partisan and hence were inappropriate.” Partisan political comments by judges are a violation of the code of judicial ethics.
Judge Walker, who by coincidence is President Bush’s cousin, did not suggest there would be any further action against Judge Calabresi.
Judge Calabresi said that in his off-the-cuff remarks he was trying to make “a rather complicated academic argument,” but he understood that they had been taken as an attack on President Bush. In a letter that contained no less than four apologies, he said he was “truly sorry” for “any embarrassment” he might have caused the appeals court. He did not, however, renounce the views he expressed.