What if the whole purpose of an independent judiciary is to be anti-democratic? What if its job is to disregard politics? What if its duty is to preserve the liberties of the minority -- even a minority of one -- from the tyranny of the majority? What if that tyranny can come from unjust laws or a just law's unjust enforcement?

What if we have a right to insist that judges be neutral and open-minded rather than partisan and predisposed to a particular ideology? What if presidential candidates promise to nominate judges and justices who they believe will embrace certain ideologies?

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Harsh winds are blowing on Capitol Hill. The hoped-for and feared clash between Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh and his principal accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, has come and gone, with all of its calculated and spontaneous outbursts, as well as gut-wrenching emotion.

Dr. Ford subjected herself to the public humiliation of revealing an intimate and horrific event, and she did so with grace and credibility. Judge Kavanaugh subjected himself to absurd questions about his youth, and he offered compelling denials with ferocity and indignation.

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Until two weeks ago, President Donald Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court seemed a sure thing. He ably handled more than 1,200 questions put to him by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He demonstrated even to his adversaries a masterful command of constitutional jurisprudence. The FBI had completed six background investigations of Kavanaugh throughout his career in government, and it found no blemishes.

Trump promised that he would appoint federal judges and justices who generally share his views on life, guns and administrative regulations and who have a minimalistic view of federal power. When he announced the Kavanaugh nomination, it appeared he had found his man.

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If you have been following the serious destruction brought about by Hurricane Florence in North Carolina and the political turmoil caused by the allegations of teenage sexual misconduct made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, along with his firm and unbending denials, you might have missed a profound event in a federal courtroom in the nation's capital late last week.

The Florence damage may take years to repair, and the Kavanaugh nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, which once seemed assured, at this writing is in a sort of limbo, pending an Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas-like confrontation before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week. But when Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's one-time campaign chair, entered a guilty plea in federal court last week, it created the potential for a political earthquake.

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Last week, The New York Times published a scathing critique of Donald Trump -- the man and the president. The Times said the critique was written by a senior Trump administration official who insisted on remaining unnamed. This bitter and harsh editorial, which portrays the president as dangerous to the health of the republic and his White House as slouching toward dysfunctionality, has understandably infuriated him.

Trump first accused the Times and its unnamed writer of treason, and then he publicly asked for a Department of Justice investigation to find the writer. Then, to change the subject, he threatened to declassify documents submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2016 -- before he was president -- that he believes were used to commence the Robert Mueller-led investigation of his presidential campaign.

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Last week, I was intrigued by all the fanfare attendant upon the national farewell to the late Sen. John McCain. I have written in this space that McCain and I were friends who spoke many times, but generally only about the issues upon which we agreed -- abortion, immigration and torture.

On those issues, he often stood at odds with most of his Republican colleagues in the Senate. They are opposed to abortion in name only (they will not lift a finger to stop or slow it), prefer judging the moral worth of individuals on the basis of where they were born, and think that torture is wrong unless the victim is a bad guy or a foreigner or has information the government wants.

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About four years ago, I was browsing through one of Manhattan's last remaining independent bookstores, when my cellphone rang. I didn't recognize the incoming telephone number, with its 202 area code, but I assumed it was a Fox News colleague from our Washington bureau.

When I answered the phone, a somewhat familiar but somber voice said: "Judge Napolitano, your reward for what you did today will not come from your colleagues or viewers or even on earth but in heaven."

What had I done to deserve this?

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When federal prosecutors are nearing the end of criminal investigations, they often invite the subjects of those investigations to speak with them. The soon-to-be defendants are tempted to give their version of events to prosecutors, and prosecutors are looking to take the legal pulse of the subjects of their work. These invitations should always be declined, but they are not.
Special counsel Robert Mueller -- who is investigating President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice, pre-presidential banking irregularities and conspiracy to solicit or receive campaign aid from foreign nationals (the latter is what the media erroneously call collusion) -- has made it known to former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the head of Trump's legal team, that he wants to speak to the president.

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In the past week, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, now the chief lawyer and principal spokesman for President Donald Trump's legal team, has offered arguments more harmful to Trump than helpful. In a series of combative, disjointed and logically challenged television rants, Giuliani has essentially argued that Trump did not engage in any conspiracy with the Russians for them to provide help to his campaign and that even if he did, it wasn't criminal.
In making this argument, Giuliani has played a word game in which he has effectively created a straw man and then denied it's real because it's made of straw. He has done this by avoiding the use of the word "conspiracy," substituting the word "collusion" and then arguing that there is no crime of collusion and therefore Trump did not commit a crime. This is an argument based on a false premise.

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Last week, in Ridgewood, New Jersey, a 92-year-old unsung American patriot lost his battle with congestive heart failure. He had been surrounded by his wife and children and their spouses and their children. He left this vale of tears in his wife's arms, peacefully and with dignity.

His was an American life.

He was born in Newark, New Jersey, during the Roaring '20s, the son of Italian immigrants who had come to America as children. When he was 4 years old, he met a curly-haired little girl in the neighborhood who was just three days older than he. She would become his high school sweetheart and his best friend for 88 years and his wife for the last 70 of them.

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As a trial judge in New Jersey during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush years, I spent much of my time trying to settle cases. This process involved bringing into my chambers the lawyers for the disputants and asking them in the absence of their adversaries to lay their cards on the table.
After I found out what the litigants truly wanted and I did some pushing and shoving and jawboning, more often than not, agreements were reached. The threat of an imminent jury trial -- with its expenses, complexities and uncertainties -- was often enough to bring the parties to a quick, sensible and relatively inexpensive resolution. Occasionally, flattery -- even fatuous flattery -- helped.
All trial judges in America are familiar with this process. It takes place in criminal, as well as civil, cases in every courthouse in the country nearly every day.

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When Donald Trump started running for the Republican nomination for president in June 2015, he began by attacking the Republican establishment in Washington, and he began his attack by calling the establishment "the swamp."

His real target was the permanent government and its enablers in the legal, financial, diplomatic and intelligence communities in Washington. These entities hover around power centers no matter which party is in power.

Beneath the swamp, Trump argued, lies the deep state. This is a loose collection of career government officials who operate outside ordinary legal and constitutional frameworks and use the levers of government power to favor their own, affect public policy and stay in power. Though I did not vote for Trump -- I voted for the Libertarian candidate -- a part of me rejoiced at his election because I accepted his often repeated words that he would be a stumbling block to the deep state and he'd drain the swamp.

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The Declaration of Independence -- which was signed on July 3, 1776, for public release on July 4 -- was Thomas Jefferson's masterpiece. Jefferson himself wrote much about the declaration in the 50 years that followed.

Not the least of what he wrote offered his view that the declaration and the values that it articulated were truly radical -- meaning they reflected 180-degree changes at the very core of societal attitudes in America. The idea that farmers and merchants and lawyers could secede from a kingdom and fight and win a war against the king's army was the end result of the multigenerational movement that was articulated in the declaration.

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Last weekend, President Donald Trump argued that those foreigners who enter the United States unlawfully should simply be taken to the border, escorted across it and let go. According to the president, this would save precious government resources, avoid the business of separating children from their parents and free up the Border Patrol and other federal assets to do their jobs.

He is undoubtedly correct on the beneficial consequences to the government of forced deportation without due process. Yet deportation without a trial is profoundly unconstitutional.

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Mike Scruggs