Doug Berman at his wonderful blog criticized an idiotic comment by Congressman Sensenbrenner about judge shopping providing a good reason for keeping federal mandatory minimum sentences. Doug then received numerous off-point comments that were more of the same crap that substitutes for reasoned debate these days. In response, Doug wrote:
I am not at surprised — though I am deeply disappointed — that this thread of comments became mired in the usual partisan tripe rather than a serious discussion of the serious problems of experienced members of Congress displaying extraordinary ignorance concerning important matters of public policy in areas that are supposed to be their specialty.
Sensenbrenner is not only a senior member on the House Judiciary Committee, but also Chair of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. And his comment is not a mere mis-statement of the latest USSC report or of the details of the guidelines or Booker, but rather suggests a profound misunderstand of the basic operation of the federal criminal justice system. I would be as if the Chair of the House Space subcommittee were to assert that we should not try to visit the moon again because we might get stuck in the cottage cheese that the moon is made of.
I would hope that everyone who cares about reasoned and informed policy-making would criticize any out-to-lunch comment by any policy-maker. But perhaps this is just too much to ask in these partisan days.
I share Professor Berman’s depression. Everyone who knows anything about the federal district courts understand that it is virtually impossible to judge-shop in the manner suggested by the Bucky Badger doppelgänger. Everyone who knows anything about federal sentencing policy–from the Sentencing Commission on down–also knows that almost all mandatory minimum sentences radically distort and frustrate reasoned sentencing practices. The current effort to address statutory minimums in Congress is really important and Doug’s effort to stimulate serious discussion on the subject was cheapened by the responses he received.
Good and smart people ought to act good and smart. We have the Sensenbrenners of the world to provide us with the nasty and dumb.