Thursday, October 28, 2010

“Public defenders are not defenders of the public. They are not serving the public good. They are taxpayer-funded attorneys for criminals."

That was the enlightened District Attorney in Aspen, Colorado. Here's the intro to the article:

It may come as a surprise to casual observers of this ritzy ski resort that the majority of people accused of crimes in the Aspen area qualify as indigent, and therefore have a right to a court-appointed attorney.The Colorado State Public Defender handles those cases out of its Glenwood Springs office, where four attorneys cover the caseload in Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties.The district attorney’s office handles the same area with 14 prosecutors, including elected District Attorney Martin Beeson. Beeson met with the Pitkin County commissioners this week, asking for a $600,000-plus contribution to his $3 million budget covering the tri-county area. He declined to cut his budget by 5 percent, as the commissioners had asked, and the county board appears poised to grant his full request.Colorado public defenders have no such county budget review, and no elected leader. Their funding comes out of the state’s general fund, which is approved by the state Legislature. The expenditures out of their Glenwood office in 2010 totaled $663,910, and their 2011 state budget is in the works in Denver.

While we are on quotes, there's this great one that ATL pointed out:

Appropriately weighty principles guide our course. First, we recognize that police power draws from the credo that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Second, while this maxim rings utilitarian and Dickensian (not to mention Vulcan21), it is cabined by something contrarian and Texan: distrust of intrusive government and a belief that police power is justified only by urgency, not expediency.
21 See STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (Paramount Pictures 1982). The film references several works of classic literature, none more prominently than A Tale of Two Cities. Spock gives Admiral Kirk an antique copy as a birthday present, and the film itself is bookended with the book’s opening and closing passages. Most memorable, of course, is Spock’s famous line from his moment of sacrifice: “Don’t grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh . . .” to which Kirk replies, “the needs of the few.”

Darrell Cook detailed his "love of the Rangers that has gone generally unrequited for thirty-eight (38) years." He asked the court to postpone a pretrial conference, which was set for 1 p.m. Wednesday, so that "justice may be done."
By justice, he meant: "That Darrell can be present in San Francisco for Game 1 of the World Series while Cliff Lee wields his usual style of Post-Season justice to the hapless souls that are otherwise known as the Giants lineup," according to a footnote.
Here's the whole motion for a fun read. Too bad the Rangers lost.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Must read sentencing order in Irey case

I wrote about the lengthy 11th Circuit en banc opinion in US v. Irey here. Professor Berman covers what has happened since, including Judge Presnell's opinion in response to the 11th Circuit. Here's the intro and conclusion:

This matter comes before the Court on the Unopposed Motion for Continuance of Resentencing Hearing Pending Review in United States Supreme Court (Doc. 80). As the motion’s title suggests, the parties seek to have this Court delay its resentencing of the Defendant, William Irey (“Irey”), on the chance that the Supreme Court will grant his petition for writ of certiorari, due to be filed on October 27, 2010. As things now stand, this Court is obligated by the July 29, 2010 decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (henceforth, the “July 29 Order”) to impose a 30-year sentence on Irey. Given that Irey is in the early stages of serving the 17-and-a-half-year sentence originally imposed by this court, there is no pressing need to impose the longer sentence — a fact apparently recognized by the Government, which does not oppose the motion. For these reasons, the motion will be granted, and the resentencing will be continued.
Under normal circumstances, that would be the end of the matter. But these are not normal circumstances. The July 29 Order raises a host of important issues, a fact recognized both by the Defendant in the instant motion and by the appellate court in the order itself. The pendency of the petition for a writ of certiorari provides the Court with a rare opportunity to respond to certain aspects of the appellate decision, prior to its possible review by the Supreme Court, with information that only the undersigned possesses. In addition, the July 29 Order has certain implications that affect the courts that are tasked with the imposition of criminal sentences — implications that might not be apparent to the parties themselves. The Court believes that a discussion of these points may assist the Supreme Court in determining whether the petition ought to be granted.
It is for these reasons, and not out of any disrespect for the Circuit Court’s authority to reverse the sentence I imposed, that I will take this opportunity to respond to certain portions of the July 29 Order....
I normally conclude the sentencing process by coming back to a consideration of the need for the sentence imposed to promote respect for the law and to provide just punishment for the offense. 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(2)(A). These are subjective factors that overlay the other statutory considerations. As I said at the sentencing, “I just do the best I can under the circumstances. It comes down to my view of what promotes respect for the law and provides just punishment. And here, as indicated, I think that a thirty year sentence . . . is greater than necessary to accomplish the statutory objectives.” (Tr. at 61).
The Circuit Court acknowledged that I properly calculated the guideline score, committed no procedural error, and gave thorough and thoughtful consideration to the statutory sentencing factors. Nevertheless, after demonizing Irey with over 100 references to uncharged conduct (child abuse), the Circuit Court either misconstrued or exaggerated my comments, or took them out of context, considered numerous facts and arguments never presented to me, and concluded that there were no mitigating circumstances to justify any sentence other than the 30-year guideline sentence.
This is an extraordinary and unprecedented result. The Circuit Court has effectively usurped my sentencing discretion and raised serious questions regarding Irey’s right to due process. I concede that the majority opinion has raised valid concerns about the reasonableness of the sentence I imposed. Were this case remanded to me for re-sentencing, I would take these concerns into account and exercise my discretion accordingly. But as it now stands, I will not be given that opportunity. Nor, it appears, will Irey be given the opportunity to confront the facts and arguments raised for the first time on appeal, which resulted in a 12 and a half year increase in his sentence.
In his separate opinion, Judge Tjoflat states that the majority opinion’s approach — i.e., resentencing defendants on appeal — does “immense and immeasurable institutional damage.” Irey III at 1267. In my opinion, it also undermines the basic tenets of sentencing law developed over the past five years, and opens a Pandora’s box of new sentencing issues. I regret that my sentencing of this defendant — including any errors I made in doing so — appears to have led to this result.

SDFLA launches new website

Check it out here.

Make sure to look at it from your phone and your desktop as it has a mobile version.

After you take a look, then you can take this survey.

I think it's a big improvement.

Monday, October 25, 2010

State Court

So I don't know what Rumpole is always complaining about. I was in state court this morning. No lines. Nice Judge. I even found a meter... Then, back in the office by 10:15. All good.

Let's see what happened this weekend -- Scalia and Kagan go skeet shooting. Seriously:

According to two witnesses, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia took fellow Justice Elena Kagan out for a lesson in skeet shooting at his shooting club in Virginia last week.
The witnesses saw Scalia at the Fairfax Rod and Gun Club, where he is a member, around noon on Wednesday of last week. He was with a woman who was noticeably diminutive in height, like Kagan, who stands at about five feet three inches. The witnesses, who got a very close look at the pair, say that the woman was the newest Supreme Court Justice.
Scalia was bending down in order to teach Kagan how to hold the shotgun, the witnesses say, and the pair were shooting skeet.

Maureen Dowd on the Court: "Supremely Bad Judgment." The conclusion:

The 5-to-4 Citizens United decision last January gave corporations, foreign contributors, unions, Big Energy, Big Oil and superrich conservatives a green light to surreptitiously funnel in as much money as they want, whenever they want to elect or unelect candidates. As if that weren’t enough to breed corruption, Thomas was the only justice — in a rare case of detaching his hip from Antonin Scalia’s — to write a separate opinion calling for an end to donor disclosures.
In Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court chose the Republican president. In Citizens United, the court may return Republicans to control of Congress. So much for conservatives’ professed disdain of judicial activism. And so much for the public’s long-held trust in the impartiality of the nation’s highest court.
Justice Stephen Breyer recently rejected the image of the high court as “nine junior varsity politicians.” But it’s even worse than that. The court has gone beyond mere politicization. Its liberals are moderate and reasonable, while the conservatives are dug in, guzzling Tea.
Thomas and Scalia have flouted ethics rules by attending seminars sponsored by Koch Industries, an energy and manufacturing conglomerate run by billionaire brothers that has donated more than $100 million to far-right causes.
Christine O’Donnell may not believe in the separation of church and state, but the Supreme Court does not believe in the separation of powers.
O.K., have a good day!

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Calling John Roberts"

That's the headline of Linda Greenhouse's article in the NYTimes, calling for Justice Roberts to issue a strong end-of-year report explaining that the Senate is imperiling the judicial branch with all of the vacancies (as Justice Rehnquist had done in the past). Here is the conclusion to the article:

Unlike the president’s State of the Union message, which is required by Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, the annual report on the state of the judiciary is a modern tradition. It was begun just 40 years ago by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and carried on with enthusiasm by Chief Justice Rehnquist, who often used it for significant pronouncements on judicial policy.
Chief Justice Roberts has had a rather problematic relationship to the tradition during his five years in office. The focus of his first report, on Dec. 31, 2005, was judicial pay. Noting that federal judges’ earning power had eroded by 24 percent since 1969, he said that Congress’s failure to raise judicial salaries presented a
“direct threat to judicial independence.” While in my view he was completely right on the merits of the issue, some members of Congress resented what they viewed as hyperbole from the new chief justice, and the public responded with a shrug. The much-deserved pay raise has yet to happen.
Then last year, Chief Justice Roberts went minimalist, so much so that it left many people scratching their heads. Here was his report, in full, minus the statistical appendix:

Chief Justice Warren Burger began the tradition of a yearly report on the federal judiciary in 1970, in remarks he presented to the American Bar Association. He instituted that practice to discuss the problems that federal courts face in administering justice. In the past few years, I have adhered to the tradition that Chief Justice Burger initiated and have provided my perspective on the most critical needs of the judiciary. Many of those needs remain to be addressed. This year, however, when the political branches are faced with so many difficult issues, and when so many of our fellow citizens have been touched by hardship, the public might welcome a year-end report limited to what is essential: The courts are operating soundly, and the nation’s dedicated federal judges are conscientiously discharging their duties. I am privileged and honored to be in a position to thank the judges and court staff throughout the land for their devoted service to the cause of justice.

Best wishes in the New Year.

Tony Mauro, a longtime observer of the court, responded on The Blog of Legal Times, “Imagine if the president, instead of giving a full State of the Union address, sent a note to Congress telling the legislative branch that life is good, all is O.K., and let’s catch up next year.”
I’m willing to assume that last year’s baffling report was the result of judicial modesty rather than an idea deficit. In any event, I look forward to waking up on New Year’s Day to this headline or its reasonable equivalent: “Senate Imperils Judicial System, Roberts Says.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why aren't more judges speaking out against the guidelines?

Here's an article about Judge John Gleeson's recent response to DOJ's criticism of fraud sentences:

A federal judge in Brooklyn has rebutted the criticism by a top Department of Justice official that many federal judges have "lost" their "moorings to the sentencing guidelines" in major fraud cases.
The attack on a "regime" of judges who impose fraud sentences "inconsistently and without regard to the federal sentencing guidelines" appeared in a letter
sent in June by Jonathan J. Wroblewski, the director of the Office of Policy and Legislation to the chief of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Judge William K. Sessions III.
Last week, Eastern District Judge John Gleeson responded to Wroblewski's implication that, as Gleeson put it, fraud sentences "are inexplicably and unjustifiably all over the lot."
In a 16-page "statement of reasons" for a fraud sentence, Gleeson wrote that the discrepancies between guideline sentences and actual sentences is not evidence of the unmooring of judges, but rather indicative of the difficulty of capturing the nuances of a complex case in a list of guidelines.
The 539-page Sentencing Guidelines Manual is only one of eight factors that judges are statutorily required to consider at sentencing, Gleeson added.
He also noted that if judges had truly become unmoored from the guidelines, then prosecutors would appeal sentences more frequently -- only 18 of the 1,711 below-range fraud sentences issued last year were appealed.
"[I]n determining whether reforms are needed, and especially in determining whether the existing guideline should be burdened with even more adjustments, the Commission should examine whether our system already provides an adequate solution for the claimed 'unacceptable' outcomes the Department complains about," Gleeson wrote in
United States v. Ovid, 09-CR-216. "I suggest that it does, in the form of appellate review, and for all of the handwringing in the DOJ Letter about unacceptable sentences, the Department for the most part has not even tried to avail itself of that solution."

Gleeson is no push over. He is a former federal prosecutor and the prosecutor who put away John Gotti. He's tough but he's known as fair and extremely smart. I'm hoping that, like Gleeson and others are doing, more and more judges will start to stand up to these draconian guidelines that have no relationship to the goals of sentencing.

Hat tip -- Sentencing Law and Policy

Domestic disputes resulting from marital infidelities and culminating in a thumb burn are appropriately handled by local law enforcement authorities.

That was Paul Clement to the Supreme Court in this fascinating case about the reach of the feds and whether the 10th Amendment could be a new weapon in the fight against the over-criminalization by the federal government. From the NY Times:

The Tea Party’s favorite part of the Constitution — the 10th Amendment, which limits federal power — arrived at the Supreme Court last week. In keeping with the spirit of the times, it came wrapped in the plot of a soap opera.

The amendment has played a starring role in challenges to the recent federal health care legislation. But the justices have not made the task of divining their own views particularly easy.

Their most recent consideration of where Congress’s constitutional power ends came in a case involving the civil commitment of sex offenders.

Now the court has decided to consider what to do about a woman hellbent on poisoning her best friend.

The woman, Carol A. Bond of Lansdale, Pa., was at first delighted to learn that her friend was pregnant. Ms. Bond’s mood darkened, though, when it emerged that her husband was the father. “I am going to make your life a living hell,” she said, according to her now-former friend, Myrlinda Haynes.

Ms. Bond, a microbiologist, certainly tried. On about two dozen occasions, she spread lethal chemicals on her friend’s car, mailbox and doorknob.

Ms. Haynes, who managed to escape serious injury, complained to the local police. They did not respond with particular vigor. After checking to see whether the white powder on her car was cocaine, they advised her to have it cleaned.

Federal postal inspectors were more helpful. They videotaped Ms. Bond stealing mail and putting poison in the muffler of Ms. Haynes’s car.

When it came time to charge Ms. Bond with a crime, federal prosecutors chose a novel theory. They indicted her not only for stealing mail, an obvious federal offense, but also for using unconventional weapons in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, a treaty aimed at terrorists and rogue states.

Had she been prosecuted in state court, Ms. Bond would most likely have faced a sentence of three months to two years, her lawyers say. In federal court, she got six years.

Ms. Bond’s argument on appeal was that Congress did not have the constitutional power to use a chemical weapons treaty to address a matter of a sort routinely handled by state authorities.

She relied on the 10th Amendment, the one so beloved by Tea Party activists. It says that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

Now on to the First Amendment (via ATL). Go to the 2:20 mark... It's too good to pass up:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday news and notes

1. The jury in Judge Lenard's case dealing with the Chinese ammo resulted in a hung jury; the jury deliberated for over a week.

2. Justice Sotomayor really likes "12 Angry Men".

3. New York Times raises "age-old question" of jury service in the context of blogging: "Mr. Slutsky’s posts raised the age-old question of what jurors may or may not reveal about their jury service. They also highlighted a 21st-century nuance of dealing with jurors who use blogs and other forms of social media to share their existence with the world."

4. We're on a NYTimes roll this morning. Here's an editorial saying that states shouldn't block DNA tests. Duh.

5. And in a case close to my heart, the South Carolina Supreme Court will determine whether poker is a game of skill or luck:

Hold 'em, Dennis said, is determined more by "the relative skill of the player" than anything else. "A more skilled player will consistently beat a less skilled player, and a player's skill can be improved over time through study and practice," he added.
Because of that skill factor, Dennis said he expected his ruling would survive the court's "dominate factor test" that the justices have relied on when evaluating whether players' ability matters -- versus chance -- in determining the legality of games. Dennis also called the state's anti- gambling laws as applied to the case "unconstitutionally vague and overbroad."
Dennis' opinion tossed out the convictions of five players who had been arrested in the police raid but opted to fight the charges.
McMaster appealed, saying the judge went too far by declaring one gambling game to be more skill-oriented than another.
"In the General Assembly's view, the ills resulting from games played for money does not depend upon the particular game or the nature in which it was played," he said.

Of course there is skill involved in the game. The defense has the better of this argument by a long shot. And why are the police arresting card players? Sheesh.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The average teenager now sends 3,339 texts per month.

In keeping with the off-blog news for the week, check out this CNN article on texting:

If you needed more proof that texting is on the rise, here's a stat for you: the average teenager sends over 3,000 texts per month. That's more than six texts per waking hour.
According to a new study from Nielsen, our society has gone
mad with texting, data usage and app downloads. Nielsen analyzed the mobile data habits of over 60,000 mobile subscribers and surveyed over 3,000 teens during April, May and June of this year. The numbers they came up with are astounding.
The number of texts being sent is on the rise, especially among teenagers age 13 to 17. According to Nielsen, the average teenager now sends 3,339 texts per month.
There's more, though: teen females send an incredible 4,050 text per month, while teen males send an average of 2,539 texts. Teens are sending 8 percent more texts than they were this time last year.
Other age groups don't even come close, either; the average 18 to 24-year-old sends "only" 1,630 texts per month. The average only drops with other age groups. However, in every age bracket, the number of texts sent has increased when compared to last year. Texting is a more important means of communication than ever.

Thank goodness we haven't gotten to the point where we are texting with opposing counsel...

Ethical question of the day: Should judges be able to do stand-up comedy when they aren't on the bench? New Jersey says no:

A judge walks into a bar and launches into a stand-up routine. The bartender asks, "Is this a joke?" The judge says, "Let me check with the Advisory Committee on Extrajudicial Activities."
That's not exactly how South Hackensack, N.J., Judge Vincenzo Sicari -- alias comic "Vince August" -- got into an ethics pickle. But he did make the inquiry, and the outcome wasn't so funny: The panel that regulates New Jersey municipal judges' moonlighting said he can't decide cases by day and do shtick by night.
Sicari, though his term on the bench ends Dec. 31, isn't taking the ultimatum lying down. He's asked the state Supreme Court for review, and the justices on Oct. 8 agreed to hear the case,
In the Matter of Opinion No. 12-08 of the Supreme Court Committee on Extrajudicial Activities, A-23-10.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What are the odds?

Check out this USA Today article:

Unlike many moms, Barbara Soper never gets her kids' birthdays confused. That's because her first was born on Aug, 8, 2008, her second on Sept. 9, 2009 and her most recent on Oct. 10, 2010.

Yes, that's 8-8-08, 9-9-09 and 10-10-10.

1 in a billion, right? Not so fast:

While the dates might seem "incredibly rare," they're really not. Such a lineup can only happen in the first 12 years of the century and at least 10 months apart, says Shannon McWeeney, a professor of biostatistics at the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland.
"Given that the first birth occurred in that window, the probability is not as astronomical as you might be compelled to think," she says.In fact, it's not that high a number at all, says Philip Stark, a professor of statistics at the
University of California, Berkeley. "The 'chance' you get depends on the assumptions you make," he says. One set of assumptions gives a chance of about 1 in 50 million. More realistic assumptions — including allowing at least 11 months between births — increases it to about 1 in 2,500. Since thousands of women in the United States had kids in 2008, 2009 and 2010, this suddenly seems a little less extraordinary. But humans "like to look for patterns, to make sense of things" he says.For the Sopers, three is simply their lucky number — "we don't have any more planned," says Barbara.

What does this have to do with the SDFLA? I couldn't really figure that out either. But it's a neat story. So there.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday morning

1. Rumpole and the NYTimes take on Supreme Court specialists. I usually really like Adam Liptak, but I think he (and Rumpole) got this one all wrong. Take the example they cite in the lead to the article:

Humberto Fernandez-Vargas, deported to Mexico, had run out of options. A federal appeals court said he could not return to the United States to live with his American wife and son. And his lawyer did not have the expertise or money to pursue the case further.

Then the cavalry arrived. Leading lawyers from around the country, sensing that the case was one of the rare ones that might reach the Supreme Court, called to offer free help. Mr. Fernandez-Vargas’s immigration lawyer was delighted, and he chose a lawyer from a prominent firm here.

But there was a catch, and then a controversy. The catch was that the Washington lawyer, David M. Gossett, would take the case only if he could argue before the Supreme Court himself.

The controversy was that groups representing immigrants were furious, suspicious of the new lawyer’s interest in the case and fearful of a Supreme Court ruling that would curtail the rights of immigrants nationwide.

Indeed, Mr. Gossett faced a barrage of hostile questions from the justices, and in June 2006 the court ruled against his client, 8 to 1. The ruling wiped out decisions in much of the nation — notably from the federal appeals court in California — that had favored immigrants.

So let me get this straight -- Humberto Fernandez-Vargas, having lost and waiting to get deported after serving a federal prison sentence, should not fight his case and lay down because it might not be good for others. Please. That's not how our adversary system works. Gossett was fighting for his client and was able to get cert granted! Instead of being villified by immigration groups and a front page article in the New York Times, he should be getting kudos.

This morning the Court will hear argument on whether vaccine makers should have immunity:
At issue is whether a no-fault system established by Congress about 25 years ago to compensate children and others injured by commonly used vaccines should protect manufacturers from virtually all product liability lawsuits. The law was an effort to strike a balance between the need to provide care for those injured by vaccines, some of them severely, and the need to protect manufacturers from undue litigation.

Under the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, such claims typically proceed through an alternative legal system known as “vaccine court.” Under that system, a person is compensated if their injury is among those officially recognized as caused by a vaccine. That person, or their parents, can choose to reject that award and sue the vaccine’s manufacturer, but they then face severe legal hurdles created by law to deter such actions.

The case before the Supreme Court is not related to autism. But the biggest effect of the court’s ruling, lawyers said, will be on hundreds of pending lawsuits that contend a link exists between childhood vaccines and autism. Repeated scientific studies have found no such connection.

In other news, everyone is just SHOCKED about the Judge Jack Camp story.

And Justice Kagan is sporting conservative robes.

Friday, October 08, 2010

10 years for Villegas (Scott Rothstein's "right hand")

That sentence was much higher than the government's recommendation (7 years) and the defense's (home confinement). You all know my feelings on this -- a judge should almost never go above a prosecutor's recommended sentence. That should be the ceiling in our adversary system. What do you all think?

UPDATE -- maybe I spoke too soon about the sentence. Here's Curt Anderson on the details of the hearing:

But Debra Villegas, 43, will probably serve far less time because of her extensive cooperation with prosecutors, who said it was likely they would seek a sentence reduction later. U.S. District Judge William Zloch also took the unusual step of allowing Villegas to remain free until June 24, 2011, so she can assist in the ongoing investigation of the now-defunct Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler firm.

Other off-the-chart sentences are being handed out. SFLawyers covers one here, where "the kingdom of God" was invoked.

The Daily Business Review has a fancy new website. It looks really good and is much more user friendly. Go check it out.

Time for the weekend. I need to go figure out my pick against Rump.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Wednesday notes

1. Can't get enough of the Judge Camp story. How Appealing is keeping track of all the articles.
R. Robin McDonald has this article -- my favorite coverage because of the shout-out to the blog! -- in the Fulton County Daily Report.

2. The Supreme Court heard a case today that tests the limits of free speech, Snyder v. Phelps. Basically, the Court asked whether there should there be a funeral exception to the First Amendment. SCOTUS Blog covers the argument here. Not an easy one.

3. Tony Mauro says yes to cameras in the Supreme Court. He's so right:

You've probably already read about Monday's historic moment in the life of the Supreme Court and of the nation. When the Supreme Court convened for the beginning of its new term, three of the nine justices who emerged from behind the marble columns to take their seats were women — the first time ever that the court's membership has included that many women at once.

But you only read about it. You did not see it, unless you were among the 250 or so people lucky enough to secure a seat inside the court that morning. As one of those fortunate people, I can tell you it was low-key but dramatic. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan took their places at the bench alongside their male colleagues without comment, and only the barest of smiles. Kagan looked awestruck at first but soon was asking questions with confidence, and no trace of freshman jitters.

When was the last time such a symbolic public event was so invisible? We have grown accustomed to seeing such moments — from the inauguration of the first African American as president, to the launch of the first woman into space — on television. But not at the Supreme Court of the United States. Its stubborn resistance to modern means of engaging with the public it serves is annoying every day it is in session, but especially so on a day like Monday, when it should have let the people in to see history in the making.

4. Judicial nominations are going forward. Confirmations, not so much.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A stripper, cocaine, pot, Roxicodone, a semi-automatic gun AND...


According to
this Complaint out of the Northern District of Georgia, Senior Judge Jack Camp has some explaining to do.

A longtime federal judge was freed on a $50,000 bond Monday after his arrest on federal charges that he bought cocaine and other illegal drugs while involved in a sexual relationship with an exotic dancer for the past several months.

Senior U.S. District Judge Jack T. Camp Jr. was arrested late Friday night near Sandy Springs. Camp, 67, is accused of purchasing cocaine and marijuana, along with prescription painkillers, which he shared with an exotic dancer he met last spring at the Goldrush Showbar in Atlanta, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit for his arrest.

Camp met the dancer, identified in the affidavit as CI-1, when he purchased a private dance from her, according to the affidavit by Special Agent Mary Jo Mangrum, a member of a task force investigating public corruption. He returned the next night and purchased another dance and sex from her, the affidavit said. The two then began a relationship that revolved around drug use and sex.

In some cases, he bought drugs from the dancer, while in others the pair purchased them from other parties, according to the affidavit. Camp sometimes took loaded guns to the deals.

Camp’s arrest came after a buy from an undercover agent, authorities said.

And apparently, he was a tough sentencer:

As a judge, Camp had a reputation as a tough sentencer. In 2009, he sentenced former doctor Phil Astin to 10 years in prison. Astin had prescribed drugs to Chris Benoit, the professional wrestler who killed his wife, son and then himself in 2007. Camp said that the good works performed by the doctor were outweighed by his indiscriminate prescribing of drugs that caused at least two other people to die from overdoses.

Last year, Camp rejected a plea deal of an indicted pharmaceutical executive, saying the proposed 37-month prison sentence did not “accurately reflects the seriousness of the conduct.” Jared Wheat had earlier pleaded guilty to charges in connection with illegal importation of knockoff prescription drugs from Central America. Wheat later was given a 50-month sentence.

He had a little gun and a big gun:

Camp’s relationship with the stripper, who had a federal conviction related to a drug trafficking case, began last spring, according to the affidavit. The two would meet when Camp paid her for sex, and they would smoke marijuana and snort cocaine and take the painkiller Roxicodone together. Camp usually gave the stripper money to buy the drugs although sometimes she provided them on her own, the affidavit said. She secretly recorded Camp discussing the drug transactions.

“In order to snort the [Roxicodone], Camp and CI-1 would use a pill crusher to create a powdered form of the [Roxicodone],” the affidavit said. “In fact Camp gave CI-1 the pill crusher for CI-1’s use.”

The affidavit details a series of drug transaction in which Camp is described as securing Roxicodone and other drugs for his personal use and describes Camp as carrying a semi-automatic handgun to protect the stripper and himself during drug deals. Federal law carries separate charges for carrying a firearm in drug transactions.

Last Friday, in recorded telephone conversation, Camp told the stripper he would try to help her because she was having trouble getting a job with her record. The judge offered to talk to a potential employer if necessary, according to the affidavit. During the conversation, the two of them discussed having a second woman join them but Camp at least initially thought it too risky to do drugs with someone he didn’t trust because he said his “situation was precarious.”

Later Friday, the stripper asked Camp if he could follow her to a drug deal to protect her because she was dealing with a dealer she did not know well. According to the affidavit, Camp responded: “I’ll watch your back anytime … I not only have my little pistol, I’ve got my big pistol so, uh, we’ll take care of any problems that come up.”

That evening, according to the affidavit, Camp and the stripper met in a Publix parking lot on Shallowford Road in DeKalb County and the two drove to the parking lot of the Velvet Room on Chamblee Tucker Road, where they met with an undercover law-enforcement agent posing as a dealer.

Ten minutes after the 7:35 p.m. drug transaction, FBI agents arrested Camp and recovered the drugs and two pistols from Camp’s car, including a .380-caliber Sig Sauer with a full magazine and a round in the chamber.

“The hammer of the gun was cocked,” the affidavit said.

This looks like a worse train-wreck than Rumpole's picks...

On the one hand, the feds shouldn't use strippers (especially strippers who have had sex with the subject) to induce the commission of crimes. Twenty years ago, the feds would have taken the judge aside and told him to back off. Now they tell the stripper to push him into more serious crimes -- bringing guns for protection, etc. That said, it appears that Judge Camp hasn't shown much compassion in sentencing defendants who have committed similar deeds. What a mess.

Monday, October 04, 2010

"People are naturally good." Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Indeed! A NYC taxi driver returned my phone. Yipppeeeeeeeee!

It's the First Monday of October, and it's Justice Kagan's first Term. It should be an interesting one. Lots of coverage all over the blogosphere on the different issues before the Court. I really like the video game issue from California:

The Supreme Court, wading into a thicket of free-speech and children's rights issues, agreed Monday to decide whether California can ban the sale or rental of violent video games to minors.

The court will review a federal court's decision to throw out California's ban. The 9th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the law violated minors' constitutional rights under the First and Fourteenth amendments.

California's law would have prohibited the sale or rental of violent games to anyone under 18. It also would have created strict labeling requirements for video game manufacturers. Retailers who violated the act would have been fined up to $1,000 for each violation.
The law never took effect, and was challenged shortly after it was signed by
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. A U.S. District Court blocked it after the industry sued the state, citing constitutional concerns.

Opponents of the law note that video games already are labeled with a rating system that lets parents decide what games their children can purchase and play. They also argue that the video games — which the Entertainment Software Association says were played in 68 percent of American households — are protected forms of expression under the First Amendment.
The decision to hear this case comes only a week after the high court voted overwhelmingly to strike down a federal law banning videos showing animal cruelty. The California case poses similar free speech concerns, although the state law is aimed at protecting children, raising an additional issue that could affect the high court's consideration.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Off the grid

So I flying back to Miami today. I was in NY yesterday speaking to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers at this conference. The panel discussion was really interesting... but more on that later.

Now I have to rant -- I lost my freaking cell phone. I never realized how addicted I was to the thing. I have the shakes. I'm sweating. Sheesh.

Luckily, the NY airport has a bunch of computers available for a quick fix. I guess I'm not completely off the grid.

Enjoy your Friday afternoon. Here's some reading for the weekend to get ready for the First Monday in October:

1. High-profile cases fill Supreme Court docket.

2. Alito is against cameras in the courtroom.

3. 7th Circuit considers Conrad Black's case.