Monday, September 24, 2007

On Judge Paul G. Cassell's retirement

This weekend I saw that the Professor who taught me Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure is leaving from the bench already, after only five years in the federal judiciary. No one will disagree with me that he is a brilliant, ethical, and fair man. Moreover, even though he was only a district court judge in Utah (and the youngest federal judge ever from that state at 42), he was highly influential.
In his 2004 decision in the United States v. Croxford, he became the first judge in the country to hold that the federal sentencing guidelines were unconstitutional based on prior Supreme Court decisions. In 2005, Cassell became the first judge to interpret the meaning of the Supreme Court Booker decision on the new advisory nature of the guidelines, and in 2004, defense attorneys applauded Cassell for authoring a lengthy opinion decrying a 55-year mandatory minimum sentence he was required to impose on young marijuana dealer Weldon Angelos. Also in 2005, Chief Justice William Rehnquist appointed Judge Cassell to be the chairman of the Judicial Conference Committee on Criminal Law.
He would miss classes to teach the rule of law to judges and attorneys in central Asia. I know his wife from the Salt Lake County DA's office and she is smart tough and funny too.

However, the thing that now Professor Cassell is most famous for is something I disagree with him highly on. In Dickerson v. U.S., he argued before the Supreme Court that Congress had overturned Miranda in the 1960s and that forcing police officers to read the famous "you have the right to remain silent..." statement was "handcuffing the cops". Thankfully, the court disagreed with him 7-2, including even the late Chief Justice Rehnquist, who authored the opinion.

Most scholars, police officers, prosecutors, judges, and criminal defense attorneys recognize that Miranda has become a largely pro forma statement that fails to deter the stupid criminals from waiving their rights and confessing to their crimes. It has become the equivalent of asking airline passengers if some one else packed their luggage.

In addition to his return to teaching students, which he does an excellent job, he will return to advocacy of Victim's Rights. He believes they should have a bigger role in the court proceedings and that a constitutional amendment is necessary to do so. I wish him and his family all the best in their future endeavours, so long as that doesn't involve overturning Miranda or getting his amendment passed.

No comments: