Exercising Judgment

Kudos to Southern District Judge Robert P. Patterson for standing up to the ridiculous restrictions being placed on judges by both Congress and the Ashcroft Justice Department. Patterson is defying Congressionally mandated sentencing guidelines in a case where an individual, Steven Kim, fired several shots in the air as a protest against conditions in North Korea. Kim had entered into a plea-bargain agreement that would have required a sentence of from 30 to 37 months, but Patterson threw that out, sentencing him instead to just 27 months. Patterson characterized the decision as a rebuff to the controls the legislative (mandatory sentencing) and executive (reporting of “downward departure” instances) branches are trying to exert against the judicial. In effect, he said he’s not going to turn off his brain — or his conscience — no matter what Congress may dictate.

I don’t know how successful his little protest will be, but I am curious to see how this case ends up playing out.


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