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Late Tuesday, federal District Judge Emmet Sullivan issued a bizarre order, inviting third-party groups with no legal interests in the case to file amicus briefs addressing the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss the false-statements charge against Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national-security adviser.
The cantankerous jurist is stoking opposition to the dismissal. He knows the law calls for him to accede to attorney general Bill Barr’s decision. But Barr can’t stop Sullivan from turning the dismissal into anti-Trump group therapy — and who knows, maybe the grieving Legal Left will figure out some way for the judge to convict Flynn despite DOJ’s retreat.
Flynn’s counsel relates that on 24 prior occasions, Judge Sullivan has summarily refused to entertain input from non-parties to the case. No federal criminal rule authorizes such interventions. Yet Sullivan now encourages them.
There is no complex legal issue to be resolved. DOJ’s dismissal motion may be politically controversial, but legally it is pro forma. The only branch of government constitutionally authorized to proceed with a criminal prosecution is the executive. The Justice Department has declined to prosecute. There is nothing for the judge to do besides the ministerial task of ending the case on the court’s records.