More Criticism of Sensenbrenner

More on the Sensenbrenner flap from the American Judicature Society (AJS), a national, non-partisan organization established in 1913 to promote the administration of justice. The group has condemned the attempt by the House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) to secure a change in an appellate court decision that would increase the sentence of a convicted drug conspirator.

"What bothers us is not so much that Sensenbrenner and his counsel, both lawyers, were insensitive to the spirit, if not the letter, of both House Ethics Rules and the rules of professional responsibility in privately communicating with a court about a particular case before that court....Nor are we particularly concerned that they appear to have been wrong about the legal rules governing the failure of the government to appeal from what was admittedly an unauthorized sentence," ....

"Our concern is, rather, that this incident is another in a distressingly long series of incidents that demonstrate Sensenbrenner's ignorance of the proper functions of Congress with respect to the federal judiciary and his arrogance in purporting to speak for the American people when attempting to bully federal judges."

Here's more background on what Sensenbrenner did from the group.

Sensenbrenner recently wrote a letter to Chief Judge Joel Flaum of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, expressing consternation at a ruling by a three judge panel of the court. The Seventh Circuit has jurisdiction over Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, and the case involved the sentence imposed on a low-level criminal defendant in a drug conspiracy. According to Sensenbrenner, the court had wrongly failed to order the correction of an "illegal" sentence (97 months instead of the statutory minimum 120 months) in an appeal by the defendant, even though the United States Attorney had not taken a cross-appeal. Asking for "a prompt response with respect to what steps the Court of Appeals intends to take to rectify the panel's actions," Sensenbrenner said that the "American People and their elected representatives have a right to expect that the judiciary will adhere to the laws enacted by Congress." Although Chief Judge Flaum would not comment on a pending case, the panel amended its opinion to make clear its view that controlling Supreme Court precedent prevented it from correcting the sentence in the absence of a cross-appeal by the government.

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