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A Wisconsin Judicial Protest of Federal Prosecutions?

In July, I blogged about a federal district court judge in Milwaukee who was mandamused after meeting with a Federal Public Defender and a United States Attorney and questioned the U.S. Attorney’s office’s judgment in bringing a case federally.

Now, as they say, the plot thickens.

Apparently the mandamused Judge has announced that he is no longer taking criminal cases. It isn’t clear if he’ll resume when a new U.S. Attorney is appointed, but that appears to be the rumor. NPR has excellent coverage, in a story in tonight’s All Things Considered.

My understanding is that the Judge has issued an order in every pending case he had, which said that he was concerned there may be an appearance of impropriety by taking cases. Apparently he doesn’t explain why, but one has to assume it’s because the U.S. Attorney’s Office has successfully had him removed from a case, and a neutral observer (like, say, me) might think that he would be upset about that.

[Note that it isn’t just that the Judge isn’t taking new criminal cases, he’s also getting rid of the criminal cases he already had.]

NPR has a more interesting explanation, that this Judge was the U.S. Attorney back in the day; back when “don’t make a federal case out of it” really meant something; back when AUSA’s were more than just a backstop for state courts. According to NPR, this judge really wants to return to that gentler time, and he doesn’t think federal prison is the most effective place to put people who are found in a bad neighborhood with a gun.

I hope they don’t take my Prius away for saying it, but I disagree with NPR on that score. State crime has been federalized for a while now. The Judge has an awfully slow reaction time if that’s why he’s bowing out of criminal work.

If you have questions about how federal criminal charges are different than state criminal charges, please visit this page on Maryland federal criminal charges or Washington DC federal criminal charges.

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