You can read the whole response here. Basically, Powell goes down the line rebutting the absurd claims of Sullivan's petition. For our purposes I'd like to contrast a central contention that Powell advances with a pretty good article by Shipwreckedcrew, written before Powell's response was public.
In addition to the legal argumentation, Powell minces no words in advancing her claim that Sullivan's actions derive from prejudice against Flynn based in totally improper motives:
Judge Sullivan’s stubborn disagreement with the Government’s decision to dismiss the case does not confer the right to contest it himself or through his amicus. His actions smack of vindictive animus against General Flynn and judicial overreach that have no place in America’s justice system. No precedent even suggests a 'hearing' on a substantial government motion to dismiss. Not one.
The government does not have a monopoly on irreparable harm from a district court’s infringement of Executive authority. An Article III judge acting outside his constitutional bounds violates a defendant’s right to Due Process. General Flynn has a constitutional right to be prosecuted by the Executive Branch — if at all — and certainly not by the Judicial one.
General General Flynn also has a right not to hemorrhage time and money in a proceeding that is moot because the previously adverse parties are now aligned — or to receive orders from a judge no longer presiding over a live controversy. General Flynn’s personal freedom is at stake. He cannot travel freely, obtain employment, or enjoy a normal life until this case is dismissed. His very liberty is wrongly impaired until the dismissal is granted. Forcing General Flynn to continue undergoing such an ultravires prosecution in violation of Articles II and III causes him irreparable harm, and the gravity of the district court’s usurpation of power demands a prompt dismissal.
Judge Sullivan’s extraordinary actions arise solely from his disagreement with the Government’s decision to dismiss the case againstGeneral Flynn. Not only did he wrongfully tar General Flynn with a baseless assertion of treason, but he has been vocal that General Flynn should be punished severely. Disagreement over a charging decision provides no basis to deny the government’s motion.
The district court has hijacked and extended a criminal prosecution for almost three months for its own purposes.
Shipwreckedcrew, by contrast, in a sense gives Sullivan the benefit of the doubt. In a sense, his argument is that Sullivan is sincerely misguided--misguided in a way that is peculiar to judges. I happen not to agree with that assessment of Sullivan, but it does seem clear that many judges have difficulty recognizing that--under our Constitution--the Judicial Branch does not have a monopoly on determining what the "interests of justice" are. Unfortunately, Shipwreckedcrew's expression of this idea is a bit less than straightforward:
Judge Sullivan’s argument rests on the presumption that the “leave of court” language ... presumes that if a district court judge disagrees, then the view of the district court judge prevails, the government cannot drop the case, and the government must continue with a criminal prosecution of a case under penalty of ..??.. what exactly if they refuse?
That is where Judge Sullivan’s argument falters on the rocky shoals of the “separation of powers” doctrine. The idea is that this motion requires a “decision”, and that if he disagrees with the proffered justification of the government, then his view prevails. This judicially constructed decisional framework cannot coexist with “separation of powers” because the judicial decision is an inappropriate resolution under “separation of powers” doctrine on a subject committed to the sole discretion of the Executive branch.
Judge Sullivan mistakenly assumes that because this is a “motion” pending in his court, he’s obligated to provide a “decision”, and as part of coming to his “decision” he wants to have a “hearing” – maybe with testimony and/or confrontation – where the government’s statement of “in the interests of justice” will be tested.
Judge Sullivan’s argument is that the pending motion is no different than any other motion filed by a litigant, and that the hearing Judge Sullivan proposes to conduct is the same “ordinary course of business” hearing he might conduct on any other motion filed by a litigant. In doing so he ignores case law, considerations, and findings of the Panel that the subject matter of the inquiry he seeks to conduct is beyond the outer boundary of legitimate inquiry by the judicial branch. Wanting a hearing in the “ordinary course” is not the savior of his intentions because they exceed the scope of the judiciary’s role as explained by the Panel decision.
Interestingly, Shipwreckedcrew has dug up what he says is the only en banc Circuit Court decision that bears directly on this question: United States v. Hamm. The court in the Hamm case comes to the correct decision, but it does seem that they struggle to articulate their reasoning at times. Nevertheless, the application to the Flynn case is absolutely clear. In essence, here's what the Hamm court is saying:
In order for a judge to challenge a prosecutorial motion to dismiss a case, the judge must have an "affirmative reason to believe" that the prosecutors were motivated by reasons that "clearly" run against the public interest. If the prosecutors advance substantial arguments for their decision, a judge cannot second guess "the prosecutor’s evaluation of the public interest"--he "must grant the motion to dismiss." In the Flynn case, of course, the government did, in fact, submit substantial reasons for believing that the interests of justice required the case to be dismissed, beginning with the improper predication of the entire investigation.
Here is the actual language of the Hamm court:
And here is Shipwreckedcrew's conclusion:
Once again, Judge Sullivan expresses the hubris and conceit of a member of the judiciary – the presumption that it is his role and responsibility to “police” the actions of the Executive within the criminal justice system no matter the subject. Under this rationale, he could question prosecutors about the decision-making process behind any motion, for no reason other than to merely satisfy himself that nothing is being withheld. No subject matter would be beyond his ability to inquire and not “process”. The litigants would be required to yield to his view of what he views as his “right” to conduct an inquiry.
Judge Sullivan has been on the federal district court bench for more than 35 years and remains very active at age 73. The role of the district court judge might be one of the least scrutinized, yet hugely powerful roles in the American judicial system. I would guess that more than 99% of the decisions made by a district court judge are either not reviewable in a meaningful way or are subject to review only to determine whether the judge “abused his discretion.” His word is, in almost all instances, the last word.￼
In my experience, (and I welcome others to contradict me), as judges get older and have more time on the bench, they take on a more imperious nature. Having their decisions followed becomes a “given” based on their experience.