The recent shooting of New York City Police Officer Peter Figoski is a horrific tragedy that strikes at the heart of our civilized society.
Some elected officials have questioned the actions of a criminal court judge, who previously released the suspected shooter rather than set bail on a misdemeanor charge. These officials have suggested that the judge's discretionary decision on bail was an error.
Under our democratic system, people are entitled to express their opinions about judicial decisions, and even criticize those decisions on the merits. The public expression of such opinions is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Ironically, this right, as well as all the other rights the Constitution guarantees - including the right not to have excessive bail set - are protected by judges making the same type of discretionary decisions as the judge made in this case. These decisions are made based on the information available to the judge at the time, utilizing the judge's best wisdom, and respecting the constitutional rights we all expect our judges to uphold.
While elected officials and others have the right to express their opinions, their comments should be tempered by respect for the important and difficult role the judiciary plays in protecting all of our rights.
Our deepest sympathy goes to the family, colleagues and friends of New York City Police Officer Figoski.
Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director of Media Services & Public Affairs