Wednesday, October 17, 2007

State and Fed Conflict over Guidelines

Remember the recent news that a state judge had vacated some old convictions of a defendant now facing fed guidelines punishment based on his priors because she didn’t believe the sentence he would get was justified? Turns out not to be an isolated case, but it is a wonderful case of how the whole “court culture” and “going rates” concepts are spreading across jurisdictional boundaries. Doesn’t even sound completely unwarranted. "This is not some type of technicality or lawyer's trick," said Miriam Conrad, a federal public defender. She said defendants often plead guilty in district court cases that are resolved hastily without consideration because that strategy results in probation or short jail sentences. She said that when those old convictions suddenly come back to haunt defendants in federal court, her office reexamines the prior cases to see whether they were valid. The feds may not like it, but, aw, who really likes the feds beyond themselves and a proportion of state prosecutors? This is what happens when you create a system that has little legitimacy, and the response shouldn’t be the Soviet example of clamping down more. We know how that worked out. The feds should indeed be taking a series of very deep breaths and start asking themselves “how the hell did we get here?” and “is it possible that those other guys are right?”

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