Here is the column:
In 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before at Northwestern University Law School to announce President Obama’s “kill list” policy, under which he reserved the right to unilaterally order the death of any American deemed an imminent threat. After all, Holder explained, “the Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.” The response was as chilling as the message: The audience of judges, lawyers and law students applauded an attorney general who just told them that any of them could be killed tomorrow on the president’s order.
Some of us denounced the “kill list” policy, which foreshadowed what has become a campaign against due process. In our hair-triggered culture of Twitter attacks and “canceling” opponents, due process is treated as hopelessly arcane and inconvenient. Our political discourse must now be tweet-worthy — less than 280 words — and delivered in a news cycle measured in minutes.
Due process, like free speech, is rarely valued until its loss becomes personal. Take Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.). Cuomo advanced his political career by positioning himself at the front of every mob pursuing political rivals, as during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. Before hearing the defense of now-Justice Kavanaugh, Cuomo described the allegations against him by Christine Blasey Ford as presumptively true. He not only effectively called Kavanaugh a rapist, without any due process, but demanded that Kavanaugh take a polygraph as a condition to be believed.
Last year, when Lindsey Boylan’s allegations went public, I wrote a column asking if Cuomo would presume himself guilty, absent a polygraph. Now, after Boylan added details of Cuomo’s alleged kissing and propositioning her, many are struggling with his (and their) prior positions against due process. While CNN, MSNBC and other networks blacked-out the story or barely covered it, others — including many on the right — have declared Cuomo to be guilty and dangerous.
Cuomo deserves due process, despite loudly denying it for others. Simply because Boylan made the allegations is not proof of guilt. Both sides have a right to be heard — not a right to be believed solely on their word. Due process allows us to determine who is a victim — not, as AOC suggested, to vindicate one party as the declared victim.
The Biden administration, however, is expected to build on President Obama’s anti-due process policies. During the Obama administration, universities were pressured, on threat of losing federal funding, to strip students of due process protections in cases of alleged sexual assault or harassment. Schools like Harvard initially resisted in court but quickly caved. On many campuses today, due process is often dismissed as a virtual claim of privilege or a tactic to delay racial justice.
However, McCartney did not wait for an investigation; she suspended the janitor who called campus security, and ordered campus-wide training to deal with systemic racism. Kanoute reportedly published the names of the employees and one of their images, including one who was not even involved in the incident. All of the workers left Smith and were hounded as presumptive racists. After the investigation cleared them and found no racial bias, McCartney did not apologize and declared: “I suspect many of you will conclude, as did I, it is impossible to rule out the potential role of implicit racial bias..
Even the ACLU lawyer representing Kanoute dismissed any cost to these workers from being publicly humiliated without due process. Rahsaan Hall, racial justice director for the ACLU of Massachusetts, said: “It’s troubling that people are more offended by being called racist than by the actual racism in our society. Allegations of being racist … is not on par with the consequences of actual racism.” In other words, the Smith employees were not entitled to due process because they weren’t victims. The person who made the false allegation was the victim.
In the 1968 movie “Green Berets,” John Wayne’s character, Col. Mike Kirby, says that “out here, due process is a bullet.” In today’s politics, due process has been reduced more to a bullet point. For too many pundits and politicians, the question of guilt is reduced to how the conclusion reinforces their own identity or agenda. Every accused, every victim, is a vehicle to amplify a message and that message just be delivered immediately and vehemently..
Of course, as Gov. Cuomo has learned, one can lead a mob one day only to be pursued by the mob on the next. It would be easy to leave him to the mob and call it poetic justice, but that is not justice of any kind. Cuomo should receive all of the due process he denied to others — not because he deserves it, but because he embodies the costs of ignoring it.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find his updates online @JonathanTurley.