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May 31, 2011

Rubashkin appeal raising more questions about high-profile federal fraud case

Regul;ar readers likely recall some aspects of the high-profile federal case, detailed in this prior post, in which last summer a federal district court in Iowa decided to give Sholom Rubashkin a 27-year federal prison sentence for his leadership in a financial fraud involving his kosher meat-packing plant.  As explained in this post, I helped put together an amicus brief on sentencing issues as the case comes before the Eighth Circuit, and thus I am not a truly non-partisan observer of these proceedings.  Nevertheless, anyone interested in this case or more generally in the administration of the federal criminal justice system will want to check out this new article from the Des Moines Register headlined "New questions surface about impartiality of federal judge." Here are excerpts:

The court schedule of a federal judge who faces allegations of bias in the financial fraud trial of Sholom Rubashkin has raised fresh questions about judicial impartiality.  Defense attorneys argue that Rubashkin, who is serving a 27-year sentence, deserves a new trial because U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade failed to disclose all of the meetings she held with prosecutors before a 2008 immigration raid on Agriprocessors, a kosher meatpacking plant in northeast Iowa where Rubashkin served as an executive.

Oral arguments are scheduled for the afternoon of June 15 at the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.  That morning, Reade -- a judge in the Northern District of Iowa temporarily filling in on the appeals court -- will hear cases with two of the three judges who will later listen to arguments in Rubashkin's appeal.  Reade is also scheduled to sit with the same judges a day earlier.

The scheduling is unfortunate because the subject of the appeal is judicial impartiality, said Steven Lubet, a law professor at Northwestern University.  However, he said he doesn't expect it to disqualify any of the judges from hearing the case. "I would call it awkward, but I don't think there's anything more to say about it," he said....

Many also questioned the 27-year sentence she handed down, two years more than the prosecution requested.  Before sentencing, six former U.S. attorneys general signed a letter expressing their concern about the sentence sought by prosecutors.  The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, the Washington Legal Foundation in Washington, D.C., and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers filed legal briefs in support of Rubashkin's appeal.

Forty-five members of Congress have written to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to ask questions about the handling of the case.  Last month, three members of the House of Representatives asked Holder about the case when he testified before the judiciary committee.

Reade had previously acknowledged that she worked with the prosecution on logistics before the raid to ensure attorneys and interpreters would be available for the 389 workers arrested on immigration charges, but offered no further details.  The defense argued Reade failed to disclose that she began meeting with law enforcement officials more than six months before the raid, and that she discussed topics far beyond "logistical cooperation."...

Lubet, the law professor, said he can't imagine why Reade decided to sit on the trial.  By doing so, she became a judge who made a point of assisting the prosecution in at least the initial stages of the case, he said.  "Why not have a judge who had nothing to do with the prosecution, instead of one who had devoted significant time and energy into facilitating it?" he said.

Related prior posts on the Rubashkin case:

May 31, 2011 at 09:40 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Judge Reade is definitely Pro Government.. I've seen her in action 2 times. Both times she asked the USA if the he approved the sentence....Its a wonder she is rubbing elbows with the 8th circuit judges amidst her own on going web...She is perfect for the 8th circuit court of Appeals...Remember Gall, the sentences that were enhanced as a result of the appeal process, hundreds of cases that were appealed and increased dramatically.

I believe she was one of the early propents of getting OWI'S as a crime of violence, thru the 8th circuit....Luckily Begay came along...Judge McConnell saved defendents and tax payers a ton of money and yrs lost in jail..I credit him with the change as he had the smarts and fortitude to call it the way he saw it...."No matter how many owi's are committed, they are not a crime of violence"...Even though Scotus made the ruling..

The 2nd encounter with Judge Reade was a resentencing, Career Offender and OWI, remand....Her closing words as she gave the sentence were, as a result of the 2 OWI's, which are, violent crimes....

That was the reason for the Remand, they no longer were....Oh well, Federal Judges and USA get away with most anything these days....Especially in the 8th circuit...

The guidelines are pretty much mandatory in her courtroom... I cannot believe that Pepper went thru her 3 times...Having a case like that would wash a lot of mud off her down the road.
Any others have the pleasure of a brow beating with Judge Reade..

Posted by: Abe | May 31, 2011 1:54:22 PM

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