Judge Who Axed Obama Immigration Actions Is No Stranger To Controversy

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The federal judge who ruled Tuesday that President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration are unconstitutional has a controversial past which includes slaps on the wrist from the circuit court that oversees his court.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab of Pennsylvania, who was appointed by George W. Bush in 2002, drew a fierce rebuke from the Justice Department, which called it “unfounded” and “flatly wrong.”

Here are some controversies he has been involved in.

Judge Schwab has been pulled from several cases by a higher court

Judge Schwab has twice been removed from cases by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, a rare occurrence for a judge. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, one instance came in 2008, when he was criticized for his handling of a case involving Cyril H. Wecht, in which a coroner faced accusations of misusing office resources. Another came in 2012, when he was pulled from a case involving a dispute between health care care companies West Penn Allegheny Health System and UPMC. The blog FindLaw reported that Schwab was removed for bias.

One law professor, John M. Burkoff, told the Post-Gazette that it was “a slap in the face” for a judge to be pulled from a case.

In 2011, Schwab recused himself from 17 ongoing cases amid accusations of bias

The legal blog From The Sidebar reported in November 2011: “In a recent criminal case in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, a federal judge [Schwab] denied the public defender’s request to withdraw over a conflict of interest from a prior representation and instead ordered the public defender to obtain separate counsel who could independently manage any claimed conflict. When later accused of bias against the defender’s office, the judge voluntarily recused himself from 17 ongoing criminal cases.”

Schwab once adopted a defendant’s opinion as his court order, ‘with only two substantive changes’

In 2004, the Third Circuit reversed one of Schwab rulings in the case of Bright v. Westmoreland County. The reason it gave was extraordinary.

“The Court of Appeals, Nygaard, Circuit Judge, held that reversal and remand was required where district court, with only two substantive changes, adopted defendants’ proposed opinion and order as its own,” the circuit order read.

Schwab once received the lowest rating among judges from county lawyers

In a 2008 survey of lawyers with the Allegheny County Bar Association, Schwab received the lowest ranking among federal judges, according to a June 2008 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. On a scale of 1 to 5, Schwab “received the lowest scores both for impartiality, with an average score of 2.82, and temperament, with an average of 2.21,” the paper reported.

Schwab’s ruling on Obama’s immigration actions came out of nowhere

The Tuesday ruling became the latest controversy for Schwab, whose decision quickly faced criticism from the American Immigration Lawyers Association. The criminal case before him was about an undocumented immigrant who was prosecuted for illegally re-entering the country after he was removed. AILA pointed out that neither side had asked the court to weigh in on Obama’s executive actions; Schwab did so on his own without holding a hearing on the president’s actions, the group said.

“It’s shocking that a federal judge would use an unrelated criminal case to take it upon himself to declare the lawful, discretionary decisions of a sitting President
unconstitutional,” AILA’s former president, David Leopold, said in a statement.

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