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."