TEXAS VIEW: Checks and balances are importantTHE POINT — Trump shouldn’t tar the judiciary with broad strokes and commentary.

President Donald Trump’s disparagement of courts with which he disagrees might easily be dismissed as the usual Twitter tantrums but for the potential outcome — an erosion of the checks and balances that courts enforce.
The president has slammed a jurist who ruled against his ban on refugees from seven countries, referring to him as a “so-called” judge. He then set up the courts as the fall guys if and when the next terrorist attack on U.S. soil occurs. Before it even ruled Thursday against the ban, the president labeled as “disgraceful” the three-judge panel hearing the appeal and said judges are tainted by politics.
When he was campaigning, he infamously imposed an ethnic fitness test on a judge who was hearing the Trump University case, which has since been settled with the “university” paying former clients. The judge was biased, Trump said, because he is “Mexican.” Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, a Mexican-American, was born in Indiana.
The only silver lining from this rhetoric is that the president’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, told a senator that he found Trump’s attacks on the courts “disheartening” and “demoralizing.” This is an indication that Gorsuch might actually be a Supreme Court justice who defends the judiciary’s independence in the face of such attacks.
Gorsuch made these comments in a private conversation with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, who disclosed them to reporters. Trump promptly questioned Blumenthal’s credibility, but Gorsuch’s statement was confirmed by a person in attendance tasked by the White House to shepherd the nominee through the process.
Later, the White House said Gorsuch was not talking about the president specifically but about criticism generally of the judiciary. OK, but that’s not how the listeners interpreted it, and the president who nominated him is among those doing the criticizing.
By tarring the judiciary broadly as “political,” Trump’s comments have the potential to chill the independence of federal judges. Stalwart judges will not succumb — that’s why lifetime appointments are necessary — but not all judges fall into that category.
Two things have to happen here. Federal judges must stand up to the pressure. And when they do, the president must honor the authority conferred on them by the U.S. Constitution he says he reveres. Other presidents have disagreed with court rulings, but not in this fashion. Trump’s words should show the nation he recognizes the vital role courts play.