Three opinions are in this week’s “short wins” – on restitution calculation, competency in a bank robbery case, and the Fair Sentencing Act.
And, in federal public defender budget news, the New York Times had an editorial last week calling for more sensible funding of the government services required by the Constitution. Here’s the best bit:
The right to counsel is already badly battered in state courts, largely because most states grossly underfinance the representation of impoverished defendants. Indigent defense in federal criminal cases has served as an admirable contrast because of the high quality and availability of federal defenders. Now this system is in peril. Federal defenders will not be able to take the time to visit clients in prison or search for facts that could raise doubts about clients’ guilt.
Budget cuts hit every part of the federal government, as we know. Which is why the Department of Justice last week asked to hire an additional 100 lawyers next year over what they had this year.
As the Legal Times reports it,
The U.S. Department of Justice’s budget request for 2014 seeks to add dozens of attorney positions, boosting efforts to combat cybersecurity, prosecute financial and mortgage fraud and combat international piracy of intellectual property.
For those of you keeping score at home, the federal public defender is laying off people – including at least one Federal Public Defender himself – furloughing others, and otherwise scrambling to deal with the 5% budget cut that went into effect in February. Meanwhile, DOJ is staffing up.
Apparently a change in tide does not affect all boats equally.
Should DOJ worry that they won’t find enough harried, underpaid public defenders to be on the other side of the the cases that their fancy new prosecutors will be bringing?
And, with that, to the victories!
1.United States v. Fareri, D.C. Circuit: Appellant pled guilty to mail fraud, was sentenced to 105 months in prison, and ordered to pay restitution. Remand was required for the district court to correct the specific amounts owed to appellant’s victims, as the list of payments due to each victim exceeded the amount identified in the court’s oral pronouncement and written judgment. Though the district court’s total restitution amount was binding, remand was required to reapportion the payments between victims. [Note – Matt Kaiser was trial counsel in this case.]
2. United States v. Grigsby, Sixth Circuit: The district court issued an order allowing the government to medicate appellant, a pretrial detainee diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, in an effort to restore appellant’s mental competency so that he could be prosecuted on bank robbery charges. Because appellant’s liberty interest in avoiding involuntary medication outweighed the government’s interest in prosecution, the order was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings.
3. United States v. Hinds, Eleventh Circuit: Appellant was convicted of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine and sentenced to a lengthy prison term. He was later resentenced to a reduced term of 120 months. The acts giving rise to the conviction occurred before the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act (“FSA”), though appellant was re-sentenced after the Act. The FSA raised the drug quantities required to trigger mandatory minimum sentences for certain crack offenses. Because appellant was re-sentenced after the FSA was enacted, his sentence was vacated and the case remanded for resentencing.