Judge's focus 'odd,' 'inappropriate' for Circuit's taste

September 14, 2010
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The post was written by IL managing editor Elizabeth Brockett.

Sometimes a case makes the news not because of the merits, but for some other reason. Such a case came from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Monday. Writing for the panel, Judge Diane P. Wood noted there was “little out of the ordinary” in Jose Figueroa’s trial and conviction. He was charged with heading a multimillion-dollar drug conspiracy in Wisconsin. A jury convicted him of conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine.

Judge Wood wrote that his evidentiary decision challenge had no merit; however, it was comments made during sentencing by Wisconsin Eastern District Judge Rudolph T. Randa that raised questions. The appellate panel remanded, noting that Judge Randa’s “process was so far out of bounds that Figueroa is entitled to resentencing.”

In United State of America v. Jose Figueroa, also known as Jose Figueroa-Maldanado, No. 09-3333, Judge Wood noted the sentence of 235 months was unremarkable, but “the process the district court used to get there – in particular, its extraneous and inflammatory comments during the sentencing hearing – cast doubt on the validity of the sentence.”

Judge Wood wrote, “The sentencing transcript reveals an odd focus on nation-states and national characteristics. The district court linked the drug trade to Mexico, then to Colombia and Venezuela, and then to Iranian terrorists through the person of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. … Turning to punishment, he remarked that Figueroa should be happy that he was headed to an American – rather than a Mexican or Turkish – prison, and that Figueroa’s conduct could have resulted in execution had it occurred in Malaysia or Thailand.”

“The transcript also reveals the district court judge’s use of colorful – and inappropriate – analogies to dispense with arguments that he did not appreciate. Rejecting Figueroa’s wife’s comment that the sentence was unfair, he said that ‘[i]t reminds me of … the person who killed his parents . . . asking [the judge] to have sympathy for him because he’s an orphan.’”

“Later, the judge discounted Figueroa’s claim that he was a good family man: ‘even Adolf Hitler was admired by his family. Adolf Hitler loved his dog. Yet he killed six million Jews.’”

Is Judge Randa one who’s tough on drug dealers and got a little overzealous in his rebuke? For the record, Judge Randa is no rookie. He served as chief judge of that district from 2002 to 2009. He also previously served on the U.S. Judicial Conference Code of Conduct Committee.

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  1. "Am I bugging you? I don't mean to bug ya." If what I wrote below is too much social philosophy for Indiana attorneys, just take ten this vacay to watch The Lego Movie with kiddies and sing along where appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etzMjoH0rJw

  2. I've got some free speech to share here about who is at work via the cat's paw of the ACLU stamping out Christian observances.... 2 Thessalonians chap 2: "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last."

  3. Did someone not tell people who have access to the Chevy Volts that it has a gas engine and will run just like a normal car? The batteries give the Volt approximately a 40 mile range, but after that the gas engine will propel the vehicle either directly through the transmission like any other car, or gas engine recharges the batteries depending on the conditions.

  4. Catholic, Lutheran, even the Baptists nuzzling the wolf! http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-documents-reveal-obama-hhs-paid-baptist-children-family-services-182129786-four-months-housing-illegal-alien-children/ YET where is the Progressivist outcry? Silent. I wonder why?

  5. Thank you, Honorable Ladies, and thank you, TIL, for this interesting interview. The most interesting question was the last one, which drew the least response. Could it be that NFP stamps are a threat to the very foundation of our common law American legal tradition, a throwback to the continental system that facilitated differing standards of justice? A throwback to Star Chamber’s protection of the landed gentry? If TIL ever again interviews this same panel, I would recommend inviting one known for voicing socio-legal dissent for the masses, maybe Welch, maybe Ogden, maybe our own John Smith? As demographics shift and our social cohesion precipitously drops, a consistent judicial core will become more and more important so that Justice and Equal Protection and Due Process are yet guiding stars. If those stars fall from our collective social horizon (and can they be seen even now through the haze of NFP opinions?) then what glue other than more NFP decisions and TRO’s and executive orders -- all backed by more and more lethally armed praetorians – will prop up our government institutions? And if and when we do arrive at such an end … will any then dare call that tyranny? Or will the cost of such dissent be too high to justify?

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