CLEVELAND – U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who will preside over opioid addiction suits from all around the nation, questioned the legitimacy of President Donald Trump earlier this year.

In February, Polster told a committee of the Anti-Defamation League that the founding fathers “were fearful of a president who might want to be a king or dictator.”

He made his remarks in response to a question about Trump’s criticism of a judge who stayed restrictions on travel from seven nations. Reporters who had come to hear him talk about the Mexican border took notes.

“When you call into question the legitimacy of a federal district court judge, that’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed,” he said, according to Cleveland.com. “You start calling into question the legitimacy of someone, that undermines the whole system.

“To say it publicly, that’s his right, but it calls into question and some might even say forfeits his or her own legitimacy. I’ve said many times that the Constitution never sleeps and our branch is on it.”

Polster also said he doesn’t think any federal judge “would be intimidated by anybody.”

“We took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and it means a lot,” he said. “And I think that oath means even more today.” 

Cleveland Jewish News provided a consistent account of his answer, but it devoted more space to his remarks about two weeks he spent hearing immigration cases in New Mexico.

“They know they aren’t supposed to come, but have no choice,” Polster said of his time in New Mexico.

Polster said he did more sentencing in those two weeks than in a whole year in Cleveland, but he also said he didn’t see a single murderer, rapist or terrorist.

Polster said citizens should recommend that members of Congress spend a day observing immigration trials.

He said it remains to be seen if Trump and Congress have the will to secure borders in a humane and realistic way. He said immigrating illegally to the U. S. already is difficult.

Polster’s talk to the Anti-Defamation League took place at a penthouse in Bratenahl, a small municipality with Cleveland on three sides and Lake Erie on the fourth.

When Trump criticized the federal judge who stayed the travel restrictions, he predicted the decision would be overturned.

Appellate judges in San Francisco didn’t overturn it, but the U. S. Supreme Court did by a 7-2 vote.

Polster was nominated by President Bill Clinton to the federal bench in 1997, and he was confirmed the following summer.

Polster recently was appointed by the Judicial Panel on Multi District Litigation to take charge of opioid litigation. Local governments lead the litigation, seeking to recover costs of addiction. The 155 lawsuits were filed in 25 different courts in Alabama, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Washington and West Virginia.

Panel chair Sarah Vance said Polster’s experience in multi district litigation over gadolinium contrast dyes, which involved several hundred cases, provided him valuable insight into the management of complex litigation.

Multidistrict litigation is a way for federal courts to have similar cases under one umbrella to speed up procedures such as discovery and pre-trial rulings. The cases can be settled under this process as well, but they are sent back to its original court if they go to trial.

At oral argument in November, panel members predicted the litigation would expand to include individual injury claims and new groups of defendants. Advertising for injury plaintiffs began as soon as the panel chose Polster.

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