Sentencing Law

In the movie Malice, Jack Donaghy is asked during a deposition (by Sandy Cohen) if he has a “God Complex” and proceeds to deliver a classic meltdown: “I *AM* God.”

There’s a legal equivalent to Baldwin’s doctor, and it’s not a judge or even a senior partner. For the biggest “God Complexes” (“God Complii?”) look to your friendly neighborhood prosecutors. Imbued with extraordinary power through the charging process and the investigatory resources of the government, prosecutors can get used to getting their way and indifferent to the plight of defendants, witnesses, and counsel. And nothing can raise their ire more than someone unwilling to cooperate. “How dare they defy me?”

Take the case of Kevin Ring, a Jack Abramoff acolyte sentenced to almost two years of prison time, whose conviction was just upheld by the D.C. Circuit (opinion available here). I’m not a huge fan of lobbyists, but the transgressions proved at Ring’s trial look way too small to justify his sentence.

Instead, it looks like his primary crime was not cooperating with the almighty government….

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Judge Lynn Hughes

* Above the Law promotes real-world change! Complaint filed against a Texas judge after we call him out for being RACEIST! [ABA Journal]

* If you were thinking of calling your friend from the Philippines a “skank” on Facebook, you may want to reconsider. [Philippine Inquirer]

* If you’re a powerful financial executive, lay off the bath salts. [DealBreaker]

* Judicial throwdown at the Second Circuit! Short version: Judge Raagi thinks Judge Jacobs should care way more about punishing guys sexting underage girls. Judge Jacobs thinks Judge Raagi watches too much Dexter. [Second Circuit / FindLaw]

* Federal District Judge John Lungstrum calls out a couple trial teams for terrible trial work. Biglaw litigators may not be the best trial attorneys? You don’t say. [New York Personal Injury Attorney Blog]

* Kenneth Anderson describes the U.S. government’s longstanding love affair with “imminence” in the context of the Obama drone strike white paper. To borrow from Rev. Lovejoy’s sermon: “Imminence…sweet imminence.” [Lawfare]

* Judges: If you’re going to base a decision on a particular fact… don’t include pictures in the opinion that directly contradict that finding. Check out page six, line two and Appendix 2 [Court of Appeals, State of Oregon]

* SCOTUSBlog and Bloomberg Law have a competition for law students. Beat your peers AND the SCOTUSBlog team and win $5000. [SCOTUSBlog]

A critically acclaimed television drama, Breaking Bad, tells the story of a high school chemistry teacher who turns to a life of crime: making and selling methamphetamine. The show’s premise suggests that criminals and drug dealers come from all walks of life.

That apparently includes the legal profession. Last night brought word of a promising young law student who just got sentenced to four years in federal prison after pleading guilty to selling meth. Better call Saul?

And this student didn’t turn to drug dealing because he was terrified about his post-graduation employment prospects. They were probably fairly bright, since he had an above-average GPA at a so-called top 14 or “T14″ law school….

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‘Please explain why I should take money away from widows and orphans.’

Looking for some feedback on this one:

Should judges be allowed to impose fines for the benefit of unrelated third parties outside the jurisdiction?

I touched on this tangentially in my earlier story about Pennsylvania’s pending lawsuit against the NCAA because one of the claims against the NCAA challenged the provision of the settlement that ordered Penn State University, as an institution supported by Pennsylvania taxpayers, to pay a fine that would partially benefit victims of sexual abuse outside Pennsylvania.

But settlements provide more flexibility than judicially imposed fines.

Who could possibly object to forcing criminals to send money to charity? Oh, we can find a guy….

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Where good decisions go to die.

I just got back from a weekend in New Orleans. Let’s just say that I’ve been freshly reminded of how alcohol can lead to some questionable decision making. Dear God, what a town.

Of course, I’m not the first person to wake up in a gutter on Bourbon Street thinking, “How did it come to this?,” and tracing it all to a drink of some kind, the “one drink too many.” All joking aside, only people who work for beer companies act like alcohol isn’t a huge factor in many serious crimes in this country. Assaults, domestic violence, rapes, even murders are often fueled by excessive consumption.

That said, very few people are abducted, unknowingly saturated with alcohol, and then set loose on an unsuspecting public. Lots of people consume alcohol responsibly. Many people consume alcohol irresponsibly without hurting anyone else, and a few irresponsible individuals consume to excess and then commit heinous acts. What are we going to do, sue the beer companies because some individuals get liquored up before they commit crimes?

Well, for some criminals in Idaho, that’s exactly what they’re doing….

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* Seven out of nine sitting Supreme Court justices were silent when it came to the passing of Robert Bork. Justice Antonin Scalia, of course, issued a public statement, as did liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (surprise!). [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* No one ever really doubted that it would take an army of Biglaw lawyers from the likes of Sullivan & Cromwell, Shearman & Sterling, and Wachtel Lipton to handle a monumental deal like the proposed $8.2 billion NYSE/ICE merger. [Am Law Daily]

* Can you coach with Nick Saban and be a Miller Canfield partner at the same time? No. But you can sue (and win!) when the firm allegedly forces you out due to its “culture of fear and intimidation.” [Detroit Free Press]

* Justice Rolando Acosta, who wrote the opinion upholding the dismissal of the class action case against NYLS, rates well among his peers as a nominee for the New York Court of Appeals. [New York Law Journal]

* Peter Madoff was sentenced to ten years in prison for his role in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, but the judge will probably let him go to his granddaughter’s bat mitzvah before shipping him to the pokey. [Bloomberg]

* Merry Christmas, now go f**k yourself. A federal judge has given a woman in Louisiana free rein to display holiday lights on her roof in the form of an extended middle finger. God bless America. [CBS 3 Springfield]

* “As a lawyer, this is very sad for me.” Al Togut, the prominent attorney pulling all of the strings behind the curtain of the Dewey & LeBoeuf bankruptcy filings, wishes that there was some way that the firm could’ve been saved. [Am Law Daily]

* Guys at my law school used to break into the registrar’s office to steal transcript paper all the time; it was no big deal. No really, as far as sentencing goes, apparently doing such a thing isn’t that big of a deal in Virginia. [Daily Progress]

* That’s some nice lipstick you’ve got there, pig: Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law is still trying to get ABA accreditation by changing everything it can, including its lax admissions standards. [Knoxville News Sentinel]

* Even though Peter Madoff’s supporters showered the court with with letters filled with compliments ahead of his sentencing, the Ponzi victims aren’t exactly showing him the same kind of love. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* This law firm in Texas is trying to make getting divorced a more pleasurable experience, so they invented something called the “Divorce Resort” — because there’s nothing like a four-star train wreck. [Huffington Post]

* Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which is the fairest firm of them all? According to the 2012 Acritas Brand Index survey, the current leader of the Global 100 is the most powerful Biglaw brand for the fifth year in a row. [American Lawyer]

* But that might not last for long, considering the dilemma Baker & McKenzie is facing when it comes to joining the Shanghai Bar Association in China. The firm is one of the first to indicate that it’ll take the plunge. [Wall Street Journal]

* Thanks to the Second Circuit, Rajat Gupta will be a free man on bail pending the appeal of his insider trading conviction. We wonder what Benula Bensam would have to say about this new twist. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Jason Smiekel, the lawyer who pleaded guilty in a murder-for-hire plot involving a former client, was sentenced to eight and a half years in federal prison. The things men will do for HHHBs. [Chicago Tribune]

* Student loan payments: coming to a paycheck deduction near you! Congress is considering an overhaul of the country’s student debt collection practices, and Rep. Tom Petri has some interesting ideas. [Bloomberg]

* The Cleveland-Marshall College of Law is the latest school to hop aboard the solo practice incubator train, but graduates will have to rent their office space from the school. Nice. /sarcasm [National Law Journal]

* “We didn’t file this complaint lightly.” Sorry, Judge Norman, but as it turns out, you can’t just sentence a teenager to attend church for 10 years as a condition of parole without pissing off the ACLU. [Tulsa World]

* When your alterations cost more than your wedding gown, it’s pretty much a given that you’ll have some problems — ones worth suing over, if you’re a true bridezilla (like moi). [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

Judge Mike Norman

I told my preacher I thought I led more people to Jesus than he had but, then again, more of my people have amnesia. They soon forget once they get out of jail.

– Judge Mike Norman, commenting on the rather unusual sentences he hands down in his courtroom. Last week, Judge Norman gave a 17-year-old who pleaded guilty to manslaughter a deferred sentence, provided that the teen goes to church each week (among other conditions).

Ed. note: This post is by Shon Hopwood, bank robber turned jailhouse lawyer turned law student, whom we previously profiled. As we recently mentioned, Hopwood is now a 2L at the University of Washington School of Law, where he is a Gates Public Service Law Scholar. Check out his new memoir, Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption (affiliate link).

Ever feel like working as a Biglaw associate is kind of like practicing law serving time in a penitentiary? Well, you aren’t too far off; there are similarities.

I spent ten years in a federal prison running a jailhouse lawyer practice for my fellow prisoners, preparing everything from habeas petitions to certiorari petitions filed in the U.S. Supreme Court. It wasn’t the appellate practice at, say, Mayer Brown, but I performed similar work (and got my first cert petition granted).

After having listened to the stories from friends at Biglaw firms, I think Biglaw and Con(vict) Law are closer than you might think….

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