The one-sentence scheduling order filed Monday morning by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia indicates that she is moving swiftly to address the motion, filed days before Stone’s sentencing.
The order came one day after Jackson dismissed Stone’s demand that she be taken off the case as a baseless smear.
“Given the absence of any factual or legal support for the motion for disqualification, the pleading appears to be nothing more than an attempt to use the Court’s docket to disseminate a statement for public consumption that has the words ‘judge’ and ‘biased’ in it,” Jackson wrote in a rare Sunday opinion.
Stone’s motion sought to disqualify Jackson on a basis related to his juror challenge, namely that she referred during Thursday’s sentencing to “the jurors who served with integrity under difficult circumstances.”
Jackson rebutted any claim that she has not treated Stone fairly. On the contrary, she wrote, she “took each issue raised by [him] seriously … ruled with care and impartiality … granted important evidentiary motions in his favor … and … repeatedly resolved bond issues in his favor, even after he took to social media to intimidate the Court, after he violated conditions imposed by the Court, after he was convicted at trial, and after he was sentenced to a term of incarceration.”
Legal experts took an equally dim view of the motion before Jackson’s ruling, saying it was probably designed to appeal to President Trump rather than the courts. Stone is a longtime friend of the president, who has suggested on Twitter that he may pardon Stone.
Jackson has delayed imposition of Stone’s sentence until his request for a new trial has been decided. She has noted that the 40-month term is significantly less than called for under sentencing guidelines.
Stone’s motion regarding the juror remains sealed, but the record indicates that it is his second attempt to argue for a new trial on grounds that jurors were biased against him. Jackson denied his first such motion, saying there was no evidence that a juror was biased merely because she was a lawyer with the Internal Revenue Service.
The second motion, Jackson said, specifically “raised questions about a juror’s written questionnaire and sworn answers during individual voir dire.”
Trump has repeatedly attacked the forewoman of the jury, who ran for Congress as a Democrat. Although the forewoman was not named at the trial, she disclosed her background, including her bid for Congress, in public pretrial jury selection. Supporters of Stone have argued that the juror did not disclose a history of social media posts criticizing the president.
The public docket does not state why Stone’s motion was filed under seal. However, courts typically avoid naming jurors before and after a verdict is entered, and the court in Stone’s case had cited concerns that extensive publicity could raise the chance that jurors would be exposed to intimidation or harassment.