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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.

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United States v. Izurieta is an odd opinion. Turns out the Eleventh Circuit was a very good defense attorney in this case.

Two brothers – Yuri and Anneri Izurieta – ran an import/export business. They brought food into the United States from Central America.

999830__3.jpgThey were charged with not following FDA procedures when they brought food into the country that – according to a trial stipulation – contained e coli and salmonella.

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Last week was an active week in the federal appeals courts.

Perhaps most interesting – especially to those who are concerned about the state of our federal public defenders – is the Second Circuit’s opinion in United States v. Barton. There, a federal defender tried to get out of a case but the judge wouldn’t let him out.

On those facts, it turns out that was reversible error.

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Two wins in the Eighth Circuit – nice. Other than that, it’s a whole lot of resentencing news.

In news related to last week’s short wins post, though, where I lamented that Assistant Federal Public Defenders will be doing the same work with less pay, here’s more information about the horrible budget/employment situation in our country’s federal defender’s offices.

In particular, I received an email calling me out for underdescribing how bad the situation is.

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There’s only one published win in the last week for a criminal defendant in our federal circuit courts. Gotta love a good case involving the Munitions List.

I would suspect that we should look forward to a slower stream of cases from the circuits as the country’s budget crisis plunges forward.

Many of my friends are Assistant Federal Public Defenders, and, over the next few weeks these folks – who are already underpaid for a lawyer – will have to take furlough days. I know these folks and what a furlough will mean. Most of them aren’t going to work less hard, they’re just going to get paid less.

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My grandmother was part Cherokee. I am, I understand, something around one sixty-fourth Cherokee. And, I understand, for years my grandmother’s family tried to hide their Indian status.

They did that for a lot of reasons, but a big one is how the federal government would prefer it if fewer folks were Native American.

Oh, how times change – now the government wants folks to be Indians, as the Ninth Circuit’s opinion in United States v. Alvirez shows us.

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It’s a good week for violent crime in the federal circuits – a robbery case from the First Circuit and an assault in Indian country winding up in the Ninth Circuit. And both resulted in a defendant-friendly remand. Go federal appeals courts!

Though I suppose the big news from last’s week’s defense wins in the federal appeals courts is the Third Circuit’s United States v. Reynolds. There, the Third Circuit struck down a conviction for failing to register as a sex offender because the Attorney General’s rule that applied SORNA (the federal statute that federalizes sex offender registry – because Congress thinks there simply cannot be enough federal criminal statutes) wasn’t totally compliant with notice and comment rulemaking, in as much as there wasn’t an opportunity for notice and comment on the rule before it was made.

It’s a great issue – kudos to the Third Circuit for thinking the APA is the law even when it applies to people accused of crimes.

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Erica Hall was an office assistant at an OB/GYN office in Coral Springs, Florida. The job may not have paid well, because Ms. Hall was trying to make some extra cash on the side by selling patient information to some folks who would use it to get fake credit cards.

1385735_sterilisation.jpgMs. Hall was told by the folks the government described as her coconspirators that for every patient’s personal information she handed over, she’d be paid $200. If the information was able to be used to create a credit card that could be used, she’d be paid $1000 for that patient information.

Even though Ms. Hall handed over information for between 65 to 141 folks, and that 16 of those people had information that could be used to make fake credit cards, she was only paid $200.

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The federal sentencing guidelines are probably the most problematic in three areas – fraud, child pornography, and drugs.

Today’s case, United States v. Diallo, illustrates two of the big problems with the fraud guidelines. First, they’re really complicated – so complicated that federal prosecutors sometimes don’t really understand how they work. In this case, the prosecutor at sentencing took a position so clearly inconsistent with the guidelines that the government abandoned it for the appeal.

(An astute reader will notice that this means the district court went along with the federal prosecutor’s flawed guidelines understanding. It’s a shame, but c’est la guerre.).