2004-06-11 / Columnists

From the Editor's Desk

By Howard Schwach

From the Editor's Desk

I have riled against judges who I believe are plain ridiculous in this space before, but I have never run into a judge who I believe needs to be relieved of his position as much as Federal Judge Robert Sweet.

A little history is necessary here before we get into his latest stupidity.

In 2000, Sweet ruled that it was OK to possess heroin as long as you carry your contraband in a syringe obtained through the city's needle exchange program. He did that, I guess, on the theory that the city providing the syringe somehow makes what's inside that syringe legal even if it is not.

Sweet has long believed that all drugs, including heroin and crack cocaine, should be legalized. He sits on the board of an organization that advocates just that and he said in a 1989 speech that the war on drugs is "bankrupt" and should be ended right there.

When a prisoner was mistakenly freed from prison before his release date, Sweet refused the government's move to send him back to prison.

He protects the identities of drug dealers in his court at the same time he forces the government to put undercover detectives on the stand to face those that they accuse, often rendering them useless as detectives and sometimes causing them grave peril.

Richard Schwartz, writing for the Daily News, has been following Sweet's career on the bench for years. He says that Sweet is "merely acting on his convictions."

Schwartz adds, "Much of this is par for the course for the radical-chic Sweet, who has made a career out of legislating from the bench. Over the years he has been blasted for striking down laws meant to keep streets safe..."

As if that is not bad enough, Sweet may well soon make himself the de facto chief of police, deciding just what the demonstrators who plan to disrupt the coming Republican Convention can do and how the police can respond to those demonstrations.

Unfortunately for New York City and its residents, Sweet is the judge assigned to the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) case against the New York City Police Department, brought because the ACLU believes that the police are trampling on the rights of demonstrators by policing them in any way.

The ACLU wants Sweet to regulate the police, understandably enough given his history. They want him to decide everything from whether the police can used mounted units to contain the demonstrators should they get violent to how the police can use barricades to protect us normal folk from those who want to disrupt the city.

In a time of a heightened terrorist alert, the ACLU wants to limit the police department's right to check bags and packages coming into the demonstration area. In fact, the ACLU wants no checking of anything being brought into the vicinity of Madison Square Garden, the site of the convention.

If the ACLU gets its way, it could mean suicide for many New York City residents. To five the protestors carte blanche is unacceptable to the majority of the populace.

Unfortunately, it is probably not unacceptable to Judge Sweet.

First, Sweet ruled that NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly had to face questions from ACLU lawyers. Kelly will have to reveal his plans not only to contain the demonstrators, but his plans to fight terrorism at the time of the convention as well.

Before Kelly has his round, the lawyers got a shot at the Chief of Patrol and the Chief who runs Patrol Borough Manhattan South.

"Publicly providing the police plans could help the bad guys develop their own plans," said a New York Post editorial, which says that the city has been made less safe "thanks to a nutty ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Sweet."

"To have public testimony and have the police commissioner talking about his plan is a tremendous problem," an NYPD lawyer told The Post.

According to Schwartz, the "cuckoo" cases brought by the ACLU can bring three outcomes. The first is that Sweet rules in favor of the city, leaving the police to decide how best to protect the public. Schwartz thinks that this is the proper ruling. I happen to agree with Schwartz. Leave the police alone and let them do their job. They know best how to do it and have proved that many times in like situations.

The second, according to Schwartz is that Sweet sets general guidelines that the police must follow, freeing the ACLU to go to the judge each time they believe that the police have overstepped their bounds.

The third is that all police preparations for the demonstrations must get his prior review and approval.

The third would be a disaster for the people who live in New York City. Who would you rather decide how best the protect the city, a judge who has a history of left-wing causes and seems to dislike the police intensely or the NYPD, an organization that has a proven track record in keeping the city safe? I know which way I would vote. You have to decide for yourself. Do you want members of "United Fof Peace and Justice," who have trashed many a city in past years to have a free hand in your city? Think about it.

"The NYPD serves as the front line of this agonizing war [against terrorism] and is doing it admirably. Restricting police discretion, banning officers from searching for explosives or holding back their mounted patrols would put millions at risk," Schwartz concluded.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

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