(h/t to Doug Berman)
Federal judges rebel over limits to sentencing power
Paul G. Cassell Hangs Up the Robe
Paul G. Cassell - a U.S. District judge in Utah who was a leader in declaring federal sentencing mandates unconstitutional - is resigning after just five years on the bench, the Deseret Morning News reported.
Cassell served previously as a law clerk for Chief Justice Warren E. Burger in the 1980s and as an associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department. Cassell will resign in November to return to teaching law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, where he was a law professor for a decade before becoming a federal judge.
Cassell said he wants to pursue research on the rights of crime victims in his resignation letter last Friday to President George W. Bush, who nominated Cassell for the judgeship in 2001. "We're at a pivotal point in our country's history in determining how we're going to move from a two-party, state-versus-defendant model to a three-party model that recognizes the legitimate interests of victims," Cassell said.
Cassell, who earned $165,200 a year, also cited the low pay of federal judges as another reason for leaving the bench, an issue that is reverbrating in the lower courts, the Supreme Court and before Congress.
NEW YORK - John Martin will quit his job for life as a federal judge next
month, vacating 16th-floor chambers that are bigger than most Manhattan
Martin isn't leaving because of the salaries, though, despite 13 years on the
bench, he still makes less than most young corporate lawyers. Nor is he
departing because of the bitter Senate confirmation battles that leave
judgeships unfilled and caseloads rising.
Instead, Martin will be retiring his judicial robes because of changes to
federal sentencing rules that he considers so "unjust" that he no longer
wants to work inside the criminal justice system.
Martin's reaction, though extreme, is part of a rare rebellion in the federal
judiciary over new congressional strictures that limit the range of prison
sentences judges can dispense. From Washington to California, normally
reticent judges at virtually all federal levels are chafing at the guidelines
that, among other things, eliminate flexibility in setting jail terms for
whole categories of crimes.The protests aren't coming from just a few
disgruntled liberal judges, either. William Rehnquist, the chief justice of
the US Supreme Court, has said he believes the changes go too far. Martin
himself is a former federal prosecutor who was appointed to the federal
District Court in Manhattan by George H.W. Bush.
The result: an enduring philosophical clash between two powerful branches of
government - Congress and the federal judiciary - over who should have the
ultimate authority in determining criminal punishments. "It's a very, very
painful period for judges," says Daniel Freed, a Yale University law
The source of the judicial ire is changes to the federal sentencing
guidelines, made at the request of Congress, that went into effect last month.
Under the new rules, judges who depart from the guidelines can face the
possibility of their individual sentencing records being made public. They
also face more scrutiny from appellate courts about sentences they give out.
Read the Article here at the Nat'l Assoc of Criminal Defense Lawyers