Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Crack Cases Clog Federal Courts

Crack Cases Clog Federal Courts

A new report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission says that federal courts handled more than 17,000 cases this year brought by crack cocaine offenders seeking shorter prison sentences. The cases came in the wake of retroactive amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines that reduced prison terms for crack cocaine offenses.

Nationwide, 17,168 cases were filed seeking sentence reductions and 12,119 were granted. The jurisdictions that saw the greatest number of these cases were Virginia's Eastern District with 1,113 and Florida's Middle District with 1,065. The federal circuits with the most filings were the 4th with 3,899 and the 11th with 3,314. The cases that were successful resulted in an average decrease in sentence of two years, from 137 months to 114 months. Of the cases that failed, the most common reason was that they were deemed ineligible for the reduction under the revised guidelines.

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on December 17, 2008 at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Worst Judicial Hellholes

In the spirit of the holiday season, the thoughtful folks at the American Tort Reform Association have delivered their annual gift to the defense lawyers and tort critics of the world. In what has become an annual tradition, ATRA has released its latest ranking of Judicial Hellholes, "America's most unfair jurisdictions in which to be sued."

After a reprieve last year, West Virginia reclaims its 2006 top spot on the list for what ATRA describes as "its near perfect storm of anti-business rulings, massive lawsuits and cozy relationships between the personal injury bar, the state attorney general and some in the judiciary." Six other jurisdictions make the list: South Florida, Cook County in Illinois, Atlantic County in New Jersey, Montgomery and Macon counties in Alabama, Los Angeles County in California and Clark County in Nevada.

ATRA also provides a "watch list" of jurisdictions that could become trouble and doles out "dishonorable mentions" to the supreme courts of Massachusetts and Missouri -- the former for a ruling about doctors' duty to warn of a drug's side effects and the latter for a ruling "that effectively invites plaintiffs from all around the country to file claims in the Show Me (Your Lawsuits) State."

For the first time this year, the report strays from its criticism of plaintiff-loving judges to include plaintiff-loving legislators. Judges, after all, must "play the cards they are dealt" by state legislatures, ATRA notes. In a section of the report titled "Tort Deform," ATRA criticizes a "more activist strategy" of lobbying by the American Association for Justice and its state counterparts to enact laws more favorable to plaintiffs. This seems odd, given the longtime activist lobbying pursued by so-called tort reformers and ATRA's own stated mission of lobbying for laws more favorable to defendants. When it comes to defining hellholes, I guess the devil is in the details.

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on December 17, 2008

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