A federal judge in New Jersey rejected Sen. Bob Menendez’s request to allow breaks in his criminal trial in order to fulfill his Senate duties, excoriating the senator for seeking “special treatment.”
Menendez’s lawyers filed a motion requesting that his upcoming criminal trial take recesses any time the senator is needed in Washington on official business. They argued that forcing the senator to leave an ongoing trial to attend to congressional business would violate his due process rights.
“A trial taking place during a session of Congress risks involuntarily denying Senator Menendez his rights to due process and confrontation, unless he elects to forego his constitutional duty to cast his vote on critical issues pending before Congress so that he can be present in the courtroom,” his lawyers argued.
U.S. District Judge William Walls appeared irritated by the request in a Friday order dismissing the motion.
“The court will not serve as concierge to any party or lawyer,” Walls wrote. “The motion – from a practical perspective – is nigh frivolous.”
He further added that he suspected the motion was part of a broader strategy to “impress the jurors” with Menendez’s importance.
The judge further said that most defendants have similar obligations, which the court does not accommodate.
“Defendant Menendez claims that he is in a ‘unique situation’ because his voting duties are ‘on a schedule not of his own making.’ But so are the duties of the radio repairman, the cab driver, and the businessman. Yet none would claim the right to dictate the schedule of their own criminal trial,” he wrote.
The senator has previously attempted to leverage his office in the course of the current prosecution. He attempted to escape indictment by arguing his activities were protected by the Constitution’s speak and debate clause, which protects lawmakers from prosecution in connection with official legislative work.
He faces 14 felony counts of various corruption charges.
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