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October 7, 2011

"A Judge’s Education, a Sentence at a Time"

The title of this post is the headline of this lengthy new article from the New York Times discussing part of former District Judge (and now Circuit Judge) Denny Chin's sentencing record. Judge Chin is best known, of course, for sentencing Bernie Madoff to the max, and this article is a must-read in part because it does not discuss the Madoff sentencing much at all.  Here are just a few small excerpts from a nice piece that provides a number of interesting federal sentencing anecdotes:

Judge Chin, 57, who last year was elevated by President Obama to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, after nearly 16 years on the trial bench, is best known for the 150-year sentence he gave Bernard L. Madoff, arguably the most prominent white-collar sentence in the history of American law....

But it has been largely anonymous defendants ... whose cases have influenced his thinking about how to balance punishment and rehabilitation, deterrence and compassion.  “There’s no doubt that all of these cases shaped me,” Judge Chin said, “and shaped the way I think, and the way I respond to things.”

He took the bench in 1994 at age 40 with little experience in criminal law.  He has since sentenced more than 1,100 defendants, including at least a dozen who received sentences of life or the equivalent, according to court statistics.  He quickly learned, he said, that preparation was crucial and that he must not agonize over his decisions.  One seasoned judge had advised: “Rule and roll.”  Be decisive.  Don’t second-guess yourself.

In a series of interviews conducted in person and through e-mail over the past year, Judge Chin discussed his most challenging sentencing decisions, cases that became essential parts of his education as a judge.  The interviews were unusual; judges rarely agree to discuss cases, even closed ones, like these, outside court.  The exchanges provided a revealing look at how one judge approached the task of sentencing, which he called “the hardest thing” about being on the bench.

“It is just not a natural or everyday thing to do,” Judge Chin explained, “to pass judgment on people, to send them to prison or not.   I mean, there is so much at stake,” he added, “and there are so many different considerations that come into play.”...

Like most judges, Judge Chin faced defendants who promised to reform their ways.  Some fulfilled that pledge; others let him down.  He tried not to become jaded or cynical, he said, and retained hope that people who had made mistakes could turn their lives around.

“A good judge has to care,” he said.  “He has to want to make the world better.”  He also believed that rehabilitation, along with punishment, deterrence and healing victims, was a legitimate goal of sentencing.  As he put it, “I don’t like to give up on people.”

October 7, 2011 at 03:34 PM | Permalink

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"He took the bench in 1994 at age 40 with little experience in criminal law."

Self-regulation has never worked in human history. Lawyer self-regulation is an abomination, immoral, and explains much of the failure of every self stated goal of every law subject. No other occupation has that privilege, and all other occupations are far more successful and less damaging.

The person who cuts my hair had 2000 hours of training, took a 100 question written exam testing her knowledge of cosmetology and of skin physiology. She demonstrated to a licensing official she could meet a dozen criteria in cutting the hair of three different types of people. She demonstrated her competence at manicures, facial massage, and a host of other tasks. Then she was allowed to cut the hair of the public.

Is there anyone here who believes that judging is easier or less dangerous than cutting hair?

Worse than amateurishness, judging is nearly unrelated to lawyering. It has a different set of skills, culture, aims, mentality. Under no circumstances should anyone who has passed 1L ever be allowed to sit on any bench. It is an active disqualifier because of the cult indoctrination it takes to pass 1L. Intelligent law students are forced to believe minds can be read, the future foreseen, and the standards of conduct should be set by a fictional character with the cautiousness of Mickey Mouse, but who is really an avatar of Jesus Christ, in violation of the Establishment Clause. Law school indoctrinates a set of unlawful delusions, qualifying most lawyers for the looney bin. Cuckoo, Cuckoo, Cuckoo, the Swiss bird clock calls out.

The hyper proceduralist Rules of Evidence and of Procedure violated many rules of critical thinking and are invalid wither empirically or in formal logic.

JUdging should be a separate profession, as it is in Europe. Judging school should be open to mature people who have taken the consequences of decision making such as former military, business, professional people (not lawyers - they are cuckoo). There should be two years of law study, where the indoctrination should emphasize, apply the law, do not make the law. The curriculum should include a course on the technical aspects of punishments, the sole tool of the law (e.g. swift and certain change behavior more than harshness). The third year should consist of actual judging of cases under the supervision of an experienced judge.

Then take a national judge licensing exam. Qualify for any bench in any state. I am not advocating either elections or appointments (suspicious because the ABA supports only appointment). But only the licensed may be placed ona a bench.

There should be full tort liability for deviation from professional standards of conduct. The filing of a frivolous or harassing civil suit should be criminalized (against anyone, not just the judge).

The pay should be triple what it is. The big bonuses should be tied to the aim of the specialty of the judge (drop crime rate, decrease medical errors, increase manufacturing safety, etc.)

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 8, 2011 11:19:41 AM

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