Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Another EDNY Judge steps up

This time it's Judge Block, who wrote this wonderful sentencing opinion explaining how devastating collateral consequences are and deciding that probation was sufficient punishment.  The whole thing is definitely worth a read.  Why aren't there more judges who are willing to write noteworthy opinions in criminal cases?  Why are so many judges just rubber stamps for the prosecution, or worse, for probation?  Why is there so much group think?

We recently lost Judge Gleeson to private practice.  Thank goodness Judge Block stepped up to check the executive branch.

Here's Slate covering the opinion:

Quoting extensively from the influential book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, Block expresses moral indignation throughout the opinion at all the ways in which the American criminal justice system makes it harder for people with felony convictions to achieve stability in life. ***
Nesbeth, Block emphasizes, has led a mostly law-abiding life, and is hoping to graduate from college next year before embarking on her chosen career as a teacher. Though “there is no question” that she “has been convicted of serious crimes,” or that “her criminal conduct is inexcusable,” Nesbeth should get a second chance, and does not deserve more than the one year of probation, six months of home confinement, and 100 hours of community service that he sentenced her to, he writes.
“[T]he collateral consequences Ms. Nesbeth will suffer, and is likely to suffer … has compelled me to conclude that she has been sufficiently punished, and that jail is not necessary to render a punishment that is sufficient but not greater than necessary to meet the ends of sentencing,” Block writes.
At the end of the opinion, which a law professor described in the New York Times as “the most careful and thorough judicial examination” of collateral consequences he had ever seen, Block argues that when prosecutors, probation officials, and defense lawyers address judges during sentencing, they should feel an obligation to give a thorough and candid accounting of all the ways in which a defendant stands to be crippled by his or her status as a felon. He also calls on Congress and state lawmakers to “determine whether the plethora of post-sentence punishments imposed upon felons is truly warranted, and to take a hard look at whether they do the country more harm than good.”
Block, who has been a federal judge since Bill Clinton appointed him to the Eastern New York district court in 1994, did not say in his opinion whether his beliefs about collateral consequences have ever guided him in the past, or how they will inform his decisions going forward. He was careful, however, to note that each case should be “separately considered,” and that the balancing of all factors “may certainly warrant prison—and even significant prison time—for someone else under different circumstances."

Another win for Lewis Tein

This time to the tune of $4 million. Congrats to them for proving the haters wrong.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Time for a new courthouse in Ft. Lauderdale

GSA says it will cost about $190 million.  From the Sun-Sentinel:
The downtown federal courthouse needs to be replaced, a new federal study has determined, something that local judges, attorneys and area officials have been saying for more than a decade.
The current 37-year-old facility on Broward Boulevard at Northeast Third Avenue has had leaking roofs, mold, flooding problems and cramped offices. It also doesn't meet the latest federal security requirements.
The General Services Administration said a new courthouse would cost an estimated $190 million but that would be more cost effective than leasing a new property or repairing the current building and adding an annex. It ruled out a private-public partnership to do the work, something city and downtown leaders had been investigating because of the lack of movement at the federal level.
"This report takes us an important step forward towards a new safe and secure facility," said Rep. Lois Frankel, whose district includes parts of the city. Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat and member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, got that committee to pass a resolution last year requiring the GSA study.
Let's see if anything actually gets done.

Remember these videos that were posted back in 2013 where it was literally raining in the courthouse:


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Monday, May 23, 2016

Is it summer yet?

The weather says yes.

Some quick news:

1.  Slate's Dahlia Lithwick says Trump's SCOTUS choices are bad for women:

The list consists of six federal appeals court judges (all appointed by George W. Bush) and five state supreme court justices (all nominated by Republicans). Most are men. All are white. All are extremely young. Almost all of them have impeccable conservative credentials. The cast of characters appears to be crafted to assuage the worries of movement conservatives such as George Will, who wrote last March that “there is every reason to think that Trump understands none of the issues pertinent to the Supreme Court's role in the American regime, and there is no reason to doubt that he would bring to the selection of justices what he brings to all matters—arrogance leavened by frivolousness.” ...
Trump’s shortlist isn’t surprising, since the presumptive Republican nominee has already suggested that women who have abortions should be punished and affirmed that he will nominate justices who want to overturn Roe v. Wade. But it’s still terrifying in a Supreme Court term in which both reproductive rights and statutorily guaranteed birth control are on the docket. It seems even more terrifying in a moment when Oklahoma has just passed a galactically silly, unconstitutional bill making it a felony to provide an abortion in the state, which Gov. Mary Fallin just vetoed. Donald Trump may want to do away with Roe v. Wade once he’s elected, but Oklahoma lawmakers are already working to turn that dream into a reality—you might say they’re making America great again. 
 2. One of the short-listers, tweeter and Texas Justice Don Willett, gave this commencement speech over the weekend.

3.  Notorious RBG's son is doing some cool things in the music world:

Weaving together historical, ethnic and cultural musical heritage with contemporary sensibilities is precisely the sort of projects that are emblematic of the indie Cedille (say-DEE) Records, whose mission is “to enhance the world’s catalog of recorded music by releasing artists’ explorations of new and underrepresented compositions and documenting their important interpretations of standard repertoire,” according to the president, James Ginsburg, who founded the not-for-profit label in 1989 while in law school at the University of Chicago and, as best he knows, is still considered a student on leave.
That indeterminate status is no longer a concern to his mother, Associate United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She and her late husband are responsible for the bug James caught when they took him to see Michael Tilson Thomas conduct the New York Philharmonic performing Igor Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” in New York, where the family lived, when he was 8 years old.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a fan of classical music and opera, which she sometimes attended with her colleague, the late justice Antonin Scalia.
James Ginsburg’s musical judgment and production skills are formidable enough to have earned his label nominations and Grammy Awards, as at the most recent ceremony, where the relentlessly inventive Eighth Blackbird ensemble won its fourth for their “Filament” album, and another Cedille ensemble, the New Budapest Orpheum Society (an updated name of the troupe of Jewish musicians in Vienna roughly 1890–1930) received a nomination for the album “ As Dreams Fall Apart: The Golden Age of Jewish Stage and Film Music .” The Society was founded at the University of Chicago by music professor Philip Bohlman , who ferreted out some of the songs for “Dreams” in the Austrian censors’ office in Vienna. “The Nazis were great record-keepers,” Ginsburg said, “so now we can bring this great music back to life.”

4.  Paula McMahon reports on a guy pointing a loaded shotgun at an IRS agent who came knocking at his door.  Maybe the heat got to him:
Hacker is now facing a criminal charge of using a deadly weapon in his encounter with the government employee. Hacker's lawyer, Michael D. Weinstein, said it was an innocent misunderstanding.
"My client thought it was strange that the IRS was coming to see him. He thought it was a scam and he exercised his right to defend himself," Weinstein said.
Hacker had left the house, on the 2000 block of Northeast 31st Avenue, by the time criminal investigators went back to interview him about the alleged assault.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

"We'll rebuild the Death Star. It'll be amazing, believe me. And the rebels will pay for it. —Darth Trump."

That was Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett on Twitter back in April.  It's funny on it's on, but you gotta love that Trump has put Willett on his short list for SCOTUS.  The NY Daily News has more:
In another biting tweet, Willett typed out a haiku poking fun at Trump’s ability to select a Supreme Court nominee.
“Who would the Donald
Name to #SCOTUS? The mind reels.
*weeps—can't finish tweet*” wrote Willett.
Since 2013, Willett has fired off roughly two dozen tweets insulting Trump.
“Low-energy Trump University has never made it to #MarchMadness. Or even to the #NIT. Sad! ??” Willett wrote on March 15.