Readers of James Stewart's New York Times column this morning, headlined "Trepidation as Bharara and Judges Trade Barbs" may have been astonished, as I was, at this paragraph:
"But the most damage may have been done last summer. At what has been described as a freewheeling, off-the-record roast for a departing prosecutor, Mr. Bharara referred to Judge Naomi Buchwald, who had just presided over his office’s first loss of a major insider trading case, as “the worst federal judge” he’d ever encountered. Several of Judge Buchwald’s fellow jurists were at the party."
First, Judge Buchwald, whom I've known for decades, is a careful, thorough, honorable, and meticulous lawyer and judge. There is no basis for what Bharara said. He has to learn how to lose without bitterness, or if he cannot, then to suppress the bitterness.
Second, how could Bharara say something so stupid even if he believed it, which he claims he does not? It was a "stab at humor" is how Stewart characterizes Bharara's explanation to others. On what planet and in what context can that statement possibly be funny?
Elsewhere Stewart writes that by calling the Second Circuit's opinion reversing insider trading convictions "dramatically wrong," Bharara "further inflam[ed] some judges." While it would have been politic to drop the adverb, appeals briefs and appellate courts often say the equivalent about lower court opinions. And judges often say much worse about a lawyer's argument.
I'm a Bharara fan. I think his public statements have been mostly appropriate. His investigation of Albany is the best chance the state has had in a long time to clean up Albany's utterly shameful legislative behavior.