Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Obama Should But Won't Do For Criminal Justice

[1] Create a policy, like a real policy regarding immigrants and crime.

Recently a friend was deported. He was convicted in federal court over 20 years ago. Back then, people were released without detainers. My friend started his life, went to school, started a business, lived under his real name, got credit cards, married, and a couple weeks ago at 6:30 a.m. ICE came and took him into custody.

In law we have something called "laches." In simple terms, if a party doesn't execute a right within a reasonable period of time, that right expires.

There's a difference between hiding out, hoping not to get caught, and just living your life while the government ignores you.

We need to have a policy that isn't just, "get 'em all out of here."

[2] Encourage Congress to roll back or remove all minimum mandatory sentences, except for life in prison for murder.

I know, this is the "liberal" in me. Minimum mandatories were invented for one reason, disrespect for judges. We no longer let judges be judges. We have politicians, many who have never entered a criminal courtroom (yet) determine sentencing schemes. We throw out numbers like 10, 15, 20, 30. We are ridiculous.

[3] Stop the lip service about drug addiction.

We yawn when we hear how many people are in prison for drug use. We ignore the economic issues related to filling up our courtrooms with cases of marijuana and possession of small amounts of cocaine.

I know, drugs are bad. Drugs kill our kids. But I'm not talking about the traffickers. I'm talking about the users. Stop acting like there's not a difference.

[4] Tell DOJ that the prosecution of criminal defense lawyers by use of expansive theories of laws meant for drug dealers is over.

I don't need to get into that issue too much. Just Google "Ben Kuehne."

[5] Host a conference entitled "What We Prosecute In Federal Court."

There's a lot of garbage in there these days. Let's get it out in the open.

[6] Appoint more federal judges that have real experience as lawyers.

I can't remember the last time a stellar federal prosecutor or criminal defense lawyer became a federal judge. Sure, those that started their career as assistant U.S. attorneys, 20 years ago, get appointed and have to leave their silk-stocking BigLaw job, but what about plucking judges out of the U.S. Attorney's office or Federal Defender's Office, or private criminal defense practice?

None of this will happen, but as we are all into this thing about "hope," this is mine.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com

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