And the Example of Judge Sirica


Though federal judges are almost always members of the party of the president who nominates them, and though political activity as well as affiliation is often a factor in their getting the appointments, the overwhelming majority of judges leave politics behind when they don their robes. They know it is the only way they can live up to their obligation to see that "justice be done though the heavens fall."

No better example exists than U.S. Judge John J. Sirica, who died recently at age 88. Judge Sirica was the federal district court judge in Washington who presided over the trial of the Watergate burglars. He forced the prosecution to go beyond what was routinely required when he suspected that higher-ups were involved. How high up is now a part of American folklore. His persistence and passion for justice led to the convictions of nearly two dozen of President Richard Nixon's top aides, and in part because of the results of some Sirica rulings, the president himself was forced to resign from office. That is the political equivalent of heaven falling.

Judge Sirica was a Republican. Not only that but he owed everything to politics and his party. As he later recalled, "I had no money to speak of [as a young man], and one of the best ways that I knew to make something of myself was through politics. Without the backing of President Eisenhower and his attorney general, Herbert Brownell, I would never have realized my dream of becoming a federal judge. But day after day, from 1972 on, C was confronted with new evidence which showed that the Republican Party had fallen into less trustworthy hands since the days when I had been active in politics. And though it saddened me to watch the party being hurt as I sent some of its leading figures off to jail, this was obviously something I had to do."

Judge Sirica was a good man, a good judge, a good politician and a good Republican. His example will always be an inspiration for judges of any party.

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