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Weekly Roundup

This just in.  I know you've been breathlessly awaiting the new Federal sentencing report, and it's my happy duty to report that your wait is over:  the Sentencing Commission has just released its report for fiscal year 2010.  (That's the one which ends in September 2011.)  Now, you could pore over the report for interesting little tidbits, but let's face it, that's why you pay me the big bucks.  So let's pore away:

  • Immigration violations are the New Big Thing.  They comprised over a third of the 83,946 individual defendants sentenced (there were 149 corporations or other "organizational defendants" sentenced, presumably none of them furriners), an increase of over 172% in the past ten years.  That's compared to a growth of 40% in the total Federal caseload.
  • Crime, at least on the Federal level, may not be a young man's game after all; the average age of offenders was 35.
  • Pleading will get you somewhere, but not all the way there.  A full 96% of defendants pled guilty, and of those who did 43% received a sentence below the guidelines.  But defendants who went to trial didn't fare much worse:  36% received a below-guidelines sentence.   Of course, the guidelines are markedly better when you plead than when you go to trial:  you get those nice bonus points for "accepting responsibility," and another handful for cooperating with the government.  In fact, 60% of the below-guidelines sentences for those who pled were requested by the government, as opposed to the 5% where the government bit its tongue and requested one for a defendant who'd gone to trial.
  • Drugs are now the second banana.  Up until they were replaced by immigration (see "New Big Thing," supra) drugs had been the most common offense for the 20 years the Sentencing Commission had been keeping stats.  It comes as no surprise to those who watched "Breaking Bad" or "The Wire," but 52% of methamphetamine offenders are white, while 78% of those convicted of crack cocaine offenses were black.  And the leading drug crime?  Marijuana. 

Rites of Passage.  There are a lot of trials and tribulations involved in parenthood, but I'm coming around to the view that I can deem myself a successful father because my kid didn't have a law named after her.  Of course, her avoidance of that would've made her a successful kid, too, because children who do have laws named after them usually have come to a bad end.  Megan's Law and the Adam Walsh Act are the best-known examples, but then there's Jessica's Law and Amber's Law, which later became the Amber Alert.  All have two things in common, besides the fact that they were named after dead children:  they're directed at sex offenders, and the results they've produced are questionable at best.

But that's not the full list, by a long shot.  The Casey Anthony case resulted in Caylee's law, which requires a parent to report a missing child within 24 hours.  That's not to be confused with Kyleigh's law, a New Jersey statute named after a teenager who was killed in a car accident, and which requires teenage drivers to display a red decal on their vehicle's license plate so police can more "easily identify a driver who must adhere to curfews and restrictions about how many other teenagers can be in the vehicle as passengers."  There's the Michael Minger Act, enacted in Kentucky after Michael, a college student, was killed in an arson fire at his residence hall, and which requires state colleges and universities to submit reports about crimes within 24 hours.  (I don't get it, either.  You mean the kid got killed, in a fire no less, and nobody thought it was a big enough deal to report to anyone?)  Then there's the Christian Frechette Law, which requires summer camps in Massachusetts to have Coast Guard-approved life jackets for children.  Bet you can guess what happened to Christian.

But, as Popeye would've put it, the kids in New Joisey has had all they can takes, and they can't takes no more:  they've sued to overturn Kayleigh's law, arguing that the license plate requirement violates the Federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act, which forbids a state to release personal information about a driver, and throwing in a 4th Amendment claim for good measure.  They were rebuffed last week by the state supreme court, but are vowing to appeal to the Big Guys.  Stay tuned.

A priest, a rabbi, and Supreme Court Justice walk into a bar.  If they do make it to the High Court, they better hope that Scalia, et al., can take time away from perfecting their standup acts at the Improv.  Courtesy of Legal Blogwatch, we're directed to the website of Boston University Law Professor Jay Wexler.  I'll read the Supreme Court's oral arguments to help me craft the insightful posts that my uncounted legions of readers hunger for; Wexler reads them for grins and giggles.  Specifically, he counts up how many times during oral arguments a justice's comment prompt the court reporter to insert the phrase "[laughter]" into the transcript.

You knew that Thomas was going to clock in at 0, unless he took up the art of mime, and Scalia being at the top with 83 laughs isn't surprising, either, for anyone who's read his opinions:  the man definitely has a sharp wit.  But Breyer in second place?  He always seemed more likely to be the butt of jokes than the dispenser of them, and sure enough, I found this in a post I did three years ago, recounting the oral argument on the case involving the strip-search of a student at a middle school:

On the bright side, though, the case has given the answer to the burning question, "Which Supreme Court Justice was most likely to have been repeatedly wedgied in high school"?   That can be found on page 58 of the oral argument, in this question by Justice Breyer:

So what am I supposed to do? In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day, we changed for gym, okay? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear.

Maybe next term Scalia will slip a whoopee cushion onto Breyer's chair just before he sits down.  

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