The Washington Post on my friend Judge Mark Bennett and meth


You must read Eli Saslow, Against his better judgment, In the meth corridor of Iowa, a federal judge comes face to face with the reality of congressionally mandated sentencing, Washington Post (June 6, 2015). It is a very long and fascinating look at the reality that Mark confronts every day. It is worth your time to read this article slowly, and contemplate the important contents.


A to and fro with Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice on the question of bail

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Yesterday,  at Simple Justice, Scott wrote about an op-ed piece in the New York Times authored by a lay person (whose biography is lefty)  that advocated that bail should never be required. Apparently, the use of bail, particularly in the New York state courts, remains ubiquitous. Unlike the author of the op-ed piece, SHG unpacked the use of bail with his customary brilliant blend of cynicism and realism.

Anyway, I wrote a comment and the following to and fro resulted:

Me:  According the NYC Comptroller, it costs $96,232 per inmate per year at Rikers. While the federal system (Bail Reform Act of 1984) is hardly perfect, the preference for release and then supervision by pretrial service officers under strict conditions is a decent model. I can’t remember the last time I saw a federal case in our court where bail (money) was required.

Of course, we also engage in outright “preventive detention” which is an anathema to many. That said, there is a certain honesty required by having to state the reasons the judge is detaining someone, even if that explanation is contained in “fill in” the blank form.

By the way, I did a lot this type of work while serving as a Magistrate Judge for five years. On the other hand, I don’t know a damn thing about New York.

Scott:  The quantity of drugs in SDNY and EDNY tends to make the detention presumptive, and rarely can a defendant overcome the presumption. I really hate that.

On the other hand, I love PRBs with a couple of FRPs. That preserves the pool of resources available for counsel.

Me:  Re: drugs in SDNY and EDNY:

In terms of drug cases, measured on a per judge basis, for the period ending September of 2014, our per judge felony criminal caseload was 228. SDNY’s number was 64 and EDNY’s number was 81.

We ranked 7th in the nation and 2nd in the Circuit. From 2008 to 2012, drug convictions comprised the largest portion — 46 percent — of criminal convictions in federal court in Nebraska, according to a U.S. Sentencing Commission report. Of that, about 58 percent of Nebraska’s federal drug cases involved meth — more than 40 percentage points above the national average.

Out here, in a drug case, the trick is to see the pretrial services officer quickly to propose a release plan. That gives the officer time to investigate it, so the MJ can, armed with the release plan, say the presumption is overcome and he or she can do so with a straight face. The defendant may be detained initially, but reviews of detention are freely given.

Scott: I was previously unaware of the correlation of living in Nebraska and meth, but it makes perfect sense. [Zing]

Scott: [Referring to an earlier post of mine] But DRUGS and crack whores. Sorry, Judge Kopf, but I just couldn’t restrain myself. [Zing]

Me:  I have a special affection for “crack whores” but not in a PERV way.

There is both substance and gallows humor in the foregoing exchange. That is why I pass it along to you. On the other hand, it might just be babble.



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