Thursday, April 21, 2011

Reuben Cahn goes to DC

Friend of the District Reuben Cahn argued before the Supreme Court this week in Tapia v. United States. Reuben is the former Chief Assistant Federal Defender of this District, and the current Defender in San Diego.

The issue in the case is: May a court give a defendant a longer prison sentence to promote the defendant’s rehabilitation?

Here's the transcript of the oral argument.

ScotusBlog has a summary of the argument. Here's a section on Reuben:

On appeal, Tapia argued unsuccessfully that Section 3582 of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 prohibited a judge from basing the length of her sentence on a rehabilitative goal. That provision provides: “The court, in determining whether to impose a term of imprisonment, and, if a term of imprisonment is to be imposed, in determining the length of the term, shall consider the factors set forth in section 3553(a) to the extent that they are applicable, recognizing that imprisonment is not an appropriate means of promoting correction and rehabilitation.”

Appearing on behalf of Alejandra Tapia, attorney Reuben Cahn relied on the text of Section 3582 to argue that the plain meaning and structure of the Act clearly prohibited a judge from lengthening a sentence to promote rehabilitation. Cahn noted that the Act stripped federal judges of their power to require federal prisoners take part in specific prison programs, such as the drug treatment program. “That structure makes sense only because Congress intended that defendants should no longer be sent to prison for purposes of rehabilitation,” Cahn said.

Several Justices asked Cahn how a reviewing court can tell whether a judge merely lengthened the sentence that he would have otherwise given based solely on rehabilitation, or whether the judge instead simply mentioned rehabilitation but in fact sentenced the defendant based on factors such as deterrence, incapacitation, and punishment. For example, Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned whether the district court’s comments in sentencing Tapia could be interpreted in this light; Cahn countered, however, that the judge’s comments were clear. Sotomayor also asked whether Tapia’s rule was tantamount to requiring a judge to use “talismanic words” to make clear the court would have imposed the same sentence without regard to rehabilitation.

Reuben has a couple things going for him -- He is arguing that the 9th Circuit should get reversed and the SG agrees with his position.


Anonymous said...

I attended the argument. Mr. Cahn was fantastic.

For those who'd like a grammar lesson on the nuances of absolute and participial phrases be sure to read petitioner's brief (which Cahn authored).

Anonymous said...

sotomayor is a wolf in sheep's clothing

Anonymous said...

Has Timmy Cone ever argued before the Supreeme Court? he is a good lawyer, that timmy.

Anonymous said...

Why so angry 1:37? What have you ever done?