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June 5, 2013

New federal judge in Iowa accused of acting as "prosecutor-in-chief" at sentencing

Stephanie_M_Rose_US_AttorneyThe Des Moines Register has this notable new article discussing some unseemly sentencing-related conduct by a new federal judge (and former federal prosecutor) in Iowa.  Here are the basics:

One of Iowa’s most prominent federal judges is accused of improperly playing the role of “prosecutor-in-chief” in criminal cases by ordering the U.S. Attorney’s Office to provide evidence that can result in longer prison sentences, court records show.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Rose has complained to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa Nicholas Klinefeldt that his prosecutors aren’t providing her with information that can be used to extend prison sentences, according to a Des Moines Register review of emails that are part of a court case and were recently unsealed.

Court transcripts show Rose, a former prosecutor who is now in her first year on the bench, has clashed with prosecutors over that issue in at least three criminal cases this year.

In a case involving convicted drug dealer Bryan Holm, Rose ordered prosecutors to provide evidence that could extend Holm’s prison sentence on a weapons charge. When they refused, citing a plea agreement they had signed, Rose called a police officer to the stand, questioned the officer herself and imposed a sentence that was two to three years longer than what prosecutors had contemplated.

Rose then sent prosecutors an email comparing herself to the comic book superhero the Hulk, saying there was “a lesson” there for attorneys: “You won’t like me when I’m angry.”

Holm’s attorney, Dean Stowers, says in court papers his client was “caught in the crossfire” between Rose and federal prosecutors who refused to do her bidding. Stowers, who is appealing Holm’s sentence, says the Hulk email “tends to support the view that there is a price to be paid” if prosecutors don’t take her advice.

“Any defendant, including Mr. Holm, would be particularly alarmed by such judicial advocacy in seeking to enhance his sentence,” Stowers wrote in court filings. “Most defendants have a hard enough time defending against the prosecuting attorney. … They at least should expect the judge will not be assuming the role of prosecutor-in-chief,” he wrote.

Rose, who at 40 is the nation’s youngest federal judge, declined to comment on the matter, as did Stowers and Klinefeldt. But in court papers, Rose has characterized Stowers’ allegations about her conduct as “inaccurate, at best, and deliberately misleading, at worst.” She has also described her emails to prosecutors as “entirely appropriate, generic contact.”

The Code of Conduct for federal judges states that generally a judge should not initiate, permit, or consider “ex parte communications” — that is, communications directed to only one party in a case — except for scheduling, administrative, or emergency purposes, and only if the communication doesn’t address substantive matters. And, according to the U.S. Judicial Conference Committee on the Code of Conduct, a judge shouldn’t “provide guidance on the ins-and-outs of practice” before the judge’s court or “provide direct assistance in a given case.”

Rose has served as a U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of Iowa for nine months. She served as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa from November 2009 through August 2012. In that role, she was occasionally accused of being too aggressive in the prosecution of some cases, including that of the former plant manager of Agriprocessors in Postville.

The emails from Rose to Klinefeldt, who has been Iowa’s top Southern District prosecutor since 2009, came to light last week.... The emails — signed by “Steph” and addressed to “Nick” — show that in January, Rose wrote to Klinefeldt and said she was “growing increasingly frustrated” with “a few global issues” regarding the way his office conducted business. In her emails, Rose asked Klinefeldt for a meeting. Klinefeldt responded, “Absolutely.”

Most of the issues cited by Rose deal with what she considered minor errors or inconsistencies in the way prosecutors worded various pleadings or briefs. But Rose also questioned the prosecutors’ reluctance to provide information that could be used to lengthen prison sentences. She wrote: “I’m troubled by your office’s occasional refusal to provide relevant discovery information to the United States Probation Office. I’m baffled by similar refusals to provide relevant sentencing information to me.”

Rose specifically cited the prosecutors’ refusal to provide information on the use of a firearm in a recent drug-trafficking case involving Devon Braet — information that could have been used to increase Braet’s sentence. She also cited a case involving John Paul Bowers, who was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. In that case, prosecutors didn’t offer any witnesses or evidence to support a longer sentence based on information that the gun in question was stolen.

At Bowers’ sentencing, Rose expressed frustration with prosecutors, saying, “I need more information from the government on why it’s not producing the witnesses that it’s not producing. ... Frankly, my inclination, if I don’t get any other information, is to vary upward to the maximum (sentence), and I don’t know that that’s fair to Mr. Bowers. ... I’m just completely baffled by the government’s position, frankly.”

June 5, 2013 at 03:45 PM | Permalink


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Obviously, she has been hanging out with Chief Judge Linda R. Reade much too long...

Do we see a huge resemblence....How the hell can anyone get anything reasonable in Iowa with thugs for judges
like these 2...Oh well, judge, jury and executioner all rolledup into one.

She needs to get a life, the bench is her religion and shes sticking to it..

Posted by: MidWest Guy | Jun 5, 2013 4:02:09 PM

@MidWest Guy: Remember, Mark Bennett is there in the Northern District to balance things out a little bit.

I think this article just goes to show that we need a few more former defense attorneys as judges. Thank goodness for Jane Kelly, just confirmed to the 8th Circuit, and a former Federal Defender in the Northern District. She must have gone up against Stephanie Rose all the time. Now Kelly has the chance to reverse Rose.

Posted by: PDB | Jun 5, 2013 4:53:01 PM

WTF How does a member of the judiciary come up with the proposition that amounts to: "if the government doesn't do what I want then the defendant will suffer a longer sentence." Judge Rose is a buffoon.

Posted by: ? | Jun 5, 2013 5:11:59 PM

@PDB: I forgot about Mark Bennett and his good judgement...Thye feds are all going in diff directions.

Some are trying to get more good time days, others clarification on career offender offenses, others
just plain varying down from the guidelines as they disagree with them..

Judge Ross, seems like she is almost Rabit with desire to hammer the poor souls.. Could you imagine
Judge Ross left up tom her decision making skills on Career Offender and owis...I'm sure shes a very smart
lady... But those that cannot apply the law with the structure that exists shouldnot be Judges. One minor detail
with owis, lack of mens rea or criminal intent.. I admire Judge McConnell from whatever Circuit he was from on
his dissent and he said...No matter how many owi or dui however worded constitutes it as a violent crime..
This is a man that thought it thru, no knee jerk reaction to hammer the guy... Larry Begay an indian from out west
that had a very serious alcohol problem.. I hope the guy has gotten better and is doing ok these days..

I think Judge McConnell has retired.. He saved a lot of lives and U.S. $$$, as his dissent
and the fortitute of Begays atty to get it to the Scotus was spot on...

Your right on Jane Kelly, she must of had to put up with a lot....Its no wonder she was a super public
defender, making it to a judge now....Its a tough road, public defender....

Its clear to me that Judge Ross' ego has fueled her power and she is a bit out of Control..
She doesn't understand her role and needs to disaplined hugely..Give all of her defendents a 4 level drop from low end of their range.

Posted by: MidWest Guy | Jun 5, 2013 5:26:50 PM

The “legitimacy of the Judicial Branch ultimately depends on its reputation for impartiality and non-partisanship.” Mistretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361, 407, 109 S.Ct. 647, 102 L.Ed.2d 714 (1989). “It is essential that the public have absolute confidence in the integrity and impartiality of our system of criminal justice. This requires that public official not only in fact properly discharge their responsiblies but also that such official avoid, as much as it is possible, the appearance of impropriety.” People v. Rhodes, (1974) 12 Cal. 3d 180, 185.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Jun 5, 2013 7:36:27 PM

"I’m just completely baffled by the government’s position, frankly."

So, keep you mouth shut. As a judge, it is not your duty to have a public opinion on the prosecution's legal strategy. That's for the people to decide. I agree, she is out of control. This might just be teething pains but someone needs to reign her in.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 5, 2013 10:43:49 PM

It's no wonder young Rosé thinks she can still operate like a AUSA. judge Reade was accused of the same thing in the Rubastian case. Reade also went down to St. Louis to fill in for a judge, 3 days before the oral arguments in 8th circuit. Just a coincidence, I'm sure. This is where Rose is getting her swagger from.

Mr Levine gives factual grounds on basic behavior. I think Cedar Rapids needs to be reshuffled with valid talent.. Act like hillbillys from Tennessee hills. But given our AG is sub par as well, it won't happen. Do we see a pattern here. Not rocket science, it's called integrity, something sadly lacking.

Posted by: MidWestguy | Jun 5, 2013 11:20:23 PM

sounds like someone needs to take this govt fucktard out back and beat the shit out of her and remind her she is NOT a prosecutor now. Those 3 diff DA's should have stood up to her and told her the same. Your not a DA now! Your job if you don't know it yet is to weight the evidence we present. YOU do not get to tell us to get more evidence. If you don't understand that get your ass up out of that chair and hand over the robe!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 6, 2013 12:43:45 AM

I am tired of seeing Prosecutors being "promoted" to Judge. Personally, I feel a judicial nominee should have served as both a prosecutor AND defense attorney at some point. Is it feasible? I don't know.

Posted by: Brian G. | Jun 6, 2013 1:22:07 AM

I have argued that the hierarchy oppresses the public, doubly so the lawyer and triply so the regular judge.

I said the most experienced, knowledgeable, and intelligent person in the court is always muzzled. If a judge so much as drives by the scene of the accident or crime, she gets impeached.

I argued the inquisitorial judge can markedly reduce the rates of false positive and false negative in verdicts. Yet, cannot.

This may be a VFL, but I strongly oppose the apparent witch hunt resulting from her desire to protect the public. It does not matter, feminist, judge, try to protect the public, the hierarchy sees you destroyed.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 6, 2013 6:16:20 AM

Supremacy Clause: You would have a difficult time with Judge reade for sure.. She not only went out and collected evidence, but she went down to the 8th circuit court of appeals, a few days before her big Rubastian (misspelled) case and sat in temp for another judge.

I'm sure there was no improprieties there either, cause she said there wasn't... Really....

This Judge Rose, sounds like she increased the sentence to spite the AUSA cause he didn't chase down evidence that she wanted for
a longer sentence.. So what did she do?? Maybe give the high end of the range...She also eluded to the top sentence allowed by law.
The guide lines are not mandatory, how many strikes does this one get before she gets traded to the minors....

I understand that Judge Reades federal building got flooded a few yrs back.. She a had a hand in the design of the new 300 Plus
million dollar buiding...Really a pole shed would be more than enough for the thoughtless work they do...

These judges can hang around till they are 90 if they choose to do so...Same with Scotus..
Does anyone see anything wrong with that...How can one get change when you have the same players, decade after decade.

I'm thinking the criminals would be far and away better off to leave the state...Maybe everyone...
If you plan on going to Iowa call ahead, it might be closed..

Posted by: MidWest Guy | Jun 6, 2013 3:07:47 PM

Judges must recuse themselves in circumstances that “would offer a possible temptation to the average man as a judge ... not to hold the balance nice, clear, and true between the State and the accused.” In re Murchison, 349 U.S. 133, 136, (1955) (quoting Tumey v. Ohio, 273 U.S. 510, 532(1927)). In my view due process would require recusal when, as here, a judge “acts as part of the accusatory process. ” In re Murchison, 349 U.S. at 137.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Jun 6, 2013 3:19:32 PM

Midwest: If an experienced, knowledgeable, intelligent judge does her own work, what happens to the lawyers, even if her work is more accurate, more neutral, more public safety minded? The billable trial hours or the number of employed lawyers goes down, even if the public is made safer, and innocent defendants are more likely to be released. So why are the leashes of American judges so short, and yanked so hard, so quickly? The rent. Worthless, toxic billable hours, resulting in a 20% exoneration rate, even after spending $million on a death penalty case.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 6, 2013 8:45:26 PM

Supremacy: it doesn't matter how good, accurate or public safety minded the young judge might be. She stomped over a plea deal, which normally means a dependent aided the go met. Then on top of it she demands more info on a specific area, so as to give an enhancement.

It's not her place to be the prosecutor and bulldoze over the AUSA. Then she emails to throw her weight around. You will bow down to me or else.

Unfortunately the dept of injustice is backing her, as they fired Olsen or forced her out. Who knows.

Maybe she will take a lash at being the jury as well.

She needs to be pulled in and punished or fired on the spot.

Posted by: MidWestguy | Jun 6, 2013 11:18:10 PM

This judge thinks that the Supremacy Klaus had made her the phantom of the opera. I am not referring to the guy who comments on here but on the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. She be supreme. She be it. Send me more rotten stuff on these scumbags so I can send em off to prison for life. Jeso where did they find her?

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jun 6, 2013 11:35:43 PM

as a naïve pro-se litigant before a federal judge, when he accused me of being a criminal and threatened to incarcerate me-i mean it, i'll do it, i was surprised. during my next appearance when he denied making those statements, i was more surprised. when his voice was recorded stating those things, i was glad. that the chief judge took a year to chuck my complaint as related to his rulings, i was surprised. that not one lawyer, nor any other legal professional has demonstrated any interest or surprise or willingness to challenge these judges or the system, i lost confidence in our judiciary, which the canons declare must not occur. the canons are a joke, which is damn sad

Posted by: criminals in tuxedos | Sep 30, 2013 10:34:36 PM


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Email: [email protected]
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Posted by: George B. Tonks | Dec 6, 2020 8:53:49 PM

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