2. Judge Mark Bennett is (rightfully) railing on the federal sentencing guidelines. Via CNN:
Nearly 30 years ago, Congress embarked on a remarkable and ultimately tragic transformation of criminal law. Through the establishment of mandatory sentences and sentencing guidelines, discretion in sentencing was shifted from judges to prosecutors.3. Didn't the AG say that he was trying to fix the sentencing problem? Yes, but apparently, he is saying the right things but not actually doing much. According to the Atlantic:
After the changes, prosecutors largely controlled sentencing because things like mandatory sentences and guideline ranges were determined by decisions they made.This change ignored the fact that federal judges are chosen from the ranks of experienced members of the bar precisely because their long legal careers have shown the ability to exercise discretion.It also ignored the contrasting truth that many federal prosecutors are young lawyers in their 20s and 30s who have little experience making decisions as weighty as determining who will be imprisoned and for how long.
The primary reason for the changes was well-intended, though: Members of Congress wanted more uniformity in sentencing. That is, they wanted a term of imprisonment to derive from the crime and the history of the criminal rather than the personality of the person wielding discretion.After nearly 30 years, we know how Congress' experiment turned out, and the results are not good. Federal judges have been relatively lenient on low-level drug offenders when they have the discretion to go that way. Turning discretion over to prosecutors via mandatory sentences and guidelines not only resulted in a remarkable surge in incarceration, it does not seem to solve the problem of disparities.
When the justices of the United States Supreme Court confer Friday morning to consider new cases they will have the opportunity to accept for review a dispute that tests not just the meaning of their own recent Sixth Amendment precedent but the viability of a major new policy initiative implemented this summer by the Justice Department to bring more fairness to federal sentencing while reducing the terrible costs of prison overcrowding.
In Gomez v. United States, a Massachusetts case, the justices have been asked to determine whether they meant what they wrote about juries and drug sentences in Alleyne v. United States, decided just this past June, and at the same time whether Attorney General Eric Holder meant what he said, in August, when he promised to curb the ways in which his federal prosecutors abuse "mandatory minimum" sentences in drug cases to obtain guilty pleas (or higher sentences).
The justices should accept this case for review. And the Court should affirm the just principle that a man cannot constitutionally be sentenced based upon charges that are not brought or upon facts a jury does not even hear. But even if the justices aren't willing to muster up that level of indignation, they ought to at least take the opportunity to call out federal prosecutors for saying one thing in front of the microphones and another in court papers.
4. Here's a great story about how a reporter was able to break the Bonds grand jury testimony. Right place, right time. If you were the reporter's lawyer, would you have had the guts to tell him to go forward?
5. Irfan Khan is suing the federal government for malicious prosecution. Any chance to play this:
6. Texas Rangers Leonys Martin Tapanes was apparently kidnapped and extorted, leading to federal charges. The Herald has the details:
Leonys Martin Tapanes seemed like yet another Cuban baseball player with tremendous promise when he signed a $15.5 million contract with the Texas Rangers in 2011.
But there apparently is a darker story behind Martin’s climb from poverty to Major League Baseball success.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Miami on Wednesday charged three people — Eliezer Lazo, 40, formerly of Miami Lakes, Joel Martinez Hernandez, 37, formerly of Miami-Dade, and Yilian Hernandez, 30, of Hialeah — with conspiring to smuggle, kidnap and extort the 25-year-old Rangers outfielder.
The trio are also charged with smuggling 13 other Cuban baseball prospects to the United States — all of them going from Cuba into Mexico and then into the United States.
Yilian Hernandez, arrested Wednesday by Homeland Security and FBI agents, will have her first appearance in Miami federal court Thursday. Lazo and Martinez are currently serving respective prison sentences of five and seven years for 2012 money-laundering convictions related to Medicare fraud.
7. Finally, the blog gets a little shout out in the DBR for breaking the story yesterday on the two new federal judges being vetted:
The White House is vetting Miami-Dade Circuit Judges Beth Bloom and Darrin Gayles for two open positions on the federal bench in Miami, a legal blog reported.
The Southern District of Florida blog, which is associated with the Daily Business Review, said the judges were picked from among four finalists selected by the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission in August. Miami-Dade Judges Peter Lopez and John Thornton rounded out those on the short list.
Both Bloom and Gayles are serving in the civil division.
The openings were created when U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz took senior status last November and plans by U.S. District Judge Donald Graham to take senior status this month.