Federal Judge Filipe Restrepo, a man with a solid history as a defender of civil liberties and civil rights, and a defense attorney by training and private practice experience, seems sadly to have gotten a bit thin-skinned and power-happy after donning the robes of a federal judge.
As my colleague Linn Washington wrote earlier this week, the judge lost it when Hampton Coleman had the effrontery to write a 28-word letter to Restrepo questioning the judge’s integrity and his commitment to “blind justice,” and warning that “we the people” would be “watching and listening very carefully” to the judge.
In response to that angry but innocuous letter (prompted by Coleman’s feeling that the judge had been unfair to his nephew, a detective who had brought a racial harassment case against his employer, the Montgomery County, PA district attorney), Judge Restrepo dispatched two members of the US Federal Marshals Service to make an early morning visit to Coleman. At Coleman’s house, they reportedly accused him of sending a “threatening” letter to the judge, and warned him not to send any more. (As Washington recounts, when Coleman asked the marshals about his First Amendment rights, they told him the Constitution was “an old document” and that it was “irrelevant.”)
I would argue that when a federal judge thinks that receiving a letter from a citizen telling him to honor the Constitution and warning him that the public will be “watching and listening” to his actions in court constitutes a possible criminal act that calls for a threatening home visit by US Marshals, that judge has himself become a threat to a free society.
Interestingly, another of my colleagues here at ThisCantBeHappening!, John Grant, says that a PDF file put out by Judge Restrepo’s own office says that “Judge Restrepo permits correspondence with the Court on all matters.”
Fair enough! I am calling for our readers here at ThisCantBeHappening! to take him up on that invitation, and to let the judge know in no uncertain terms that it’s not just Hampton Coleman who is going to be watching and listening to his actions and decisions on the federal bench here in Philadelphia. We are Hampton Coleman!
So please, if you feel that this behavior by Judge Restrepo was an outrage, send him a letter too.
Here’s his address, from his website:
Hon. L. FELIPE RESTREPO
United States Magistrate Judge
601 Market Streets – Suite 3038
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Telephone Number: 267/299-7690
Fax Number: 267/514-2444
Don’t make threats, but just tell Judge Restrepo exactly what Coleman told him:
Dear Judge Restrepo:
As Hampton Coleman wrote you when you decided he was threatening you and sicced your marshals on him: “Justice is supposed to be blind. Reginald A. Roberts is not the only one with his integrity on trial. We the people are watching and listening very carefully.”
You might also add the following:
By the way, Your Honor, before you consider sending US Marshals to my door too because of this letter, let me remind you about that section of the First Amendment of the Constitution that you are sworn to defend and protect — that part where is says we Americans have the right “to petition the government for redress of grievances.”
If you do decide to send your marshals out to my house, I will try to have tea and coffee ready, and will be happy to sit down and go over the First Amendment with them.
Please let us know if you send the judge a letter and what, if any, response you get. Please also used the button below to forward this call for action to friends.