Showing posts with label Judge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Judge. Show all posts

October 5, 2018

Judge Stops Trump from Removing Thousands of Immigrants, Who Have Lived and Worked in The US








, USA TODAY 

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the Trump administration to temporarily halt its plan to end a special federal immigration program that has allowed hundreds of thousands of immigrants to legally live and work in the U.S. for decades.
U.S. District Judge Edward Chen ruled that the administration may have side-stepped federal rule-making guidelines, imposed undue political pressure on staffers, and violated the Equal Protection Clause by basing its decision "on animus against non-white, non-European immigrants."
The ruling is the latest blow against President Donald Trump's efforts to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, following court orders limiting his travel ban targeting majority Muslim countries, his attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and his policy of separating migrant families along the southwest border.
The preliminary injunction ordered by Chen prevents the deportation of an estimated 240,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan, who were facing a series of deadlines starting in November to depart the country or risk becoming undocumented immigrants. These immigrants had been granted permission to be in the U.S. under the Temporary Protected Status program, better known as TPS. The humanitarian program was created in 1990 to help immigrants from countries that suffered war or major natural disasters.
The Department of Homeland Security, which manages TPS, has argued that the program has been wrongly extended for years and that conditions in those four countries are now suitable for thousands of their residents to return home. 
But the Northern California federal judge disagreed with the administration and sided — at least for now — with the plaintiffs. He set a hearing for Oct. 26.
In reaching his decision, Chen, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, ruled that there is no immediate harm to the federal government if its decision to end TPS is temporarily halted. But he wrote that there would be enduring, longstanding harm to TPS holders, and the communities in which they live, if they’re forced to leave the country.
Chen cited a brief filed by 17 states that estimated they would lose $132 billion in the gross domestic product, $5.2 billion in Social Security and Medicare contributions, and $733 million in employee turnover costs if TPS recipients are sent home. 
As for the TPS holders themselves, Chen focused on the thousands of U.S.-born children they've had since living in the U.S. 
TPS holders are “faced with a Hobson’s choice of bringing their children with them (and tearing them away from the only country and community they have known) or splitting their families apart,” the judge wrote.
Edwin Murillo, 42, and his wife, Miley Rivas, 40, who are originally from El Salvador and have two U.S.-born children, faced that very difficult decision. They were undecided about what do but were pretty much opposed to returning to El Salvador, a country they say remains plagued by poverty and violence.
“I prefer hiding from la migra (immigration authorities) than running from the crime in my country,” said Murillo when reached by telephone at the family’s home in Dallas, Texas. He and his wife each have TPS and have lived in the U.S. for 20 years.
Murillo and his wife took part in a caravan that is traveling across the U.S. for 12 weeks to drum up support for TPS holders. They say their goal is not to further extend TPS, but to convince Congress to pass legislation that would allow TPS holders to legalize their status permanently.  
Chen focused much of his 43-page decision on the way that the Trump administration reached its decision. He wrote that former Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke did not appear to have reached her decision to end TPS based on the facts before her, but was “largely carrying out or conforming with a predetermined presidential agenda to end TPS.”
Chen said that agenda may have been tainted by racial bias. The judge listed off multiple comments and actions by Trump, during his presidential campaign and after moving into the White House, as indications that the TPS termination had a racial component behind it. 
The judge listed:
- Trump’s comments during his June 2015 speech announcing his candidacy when he characterized Mexicans as drug dealers, criminals, and rapists.
- His December 2015 call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
- A report in the Washington Post in January 2018 that President Trump referred to El Salvador, Haiti, and African nations as "shithole countries."
- A February 2018 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference where Trump “used MS-13…to disparage immigrants, indicating that they are criminals and comparing them to snakes.”
“The issues are at least serious enough to preserve the status quo,” he wrote.
The Justice Department said Chen's decision "usurps the role of the executive branch" and vowed to fight his ruling in court.
"The Court contends that the duly elected President of the United States cannot be involved in matters deciding the safety and security of our nation's citizens or in the enforcement of our immigration laws," Justice spokesman Devin O'Malley said in a statement Wednesday night. "The Justice Department completely rejects the notion that the White House or the Department of Homeland Security did anything improper."
The suit against DHS was filed last March by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and other immigrant advocates.
“Despite the administration’s efforts to twist the existing TPS statute, this preliminary injunction preserves its long-existing intent and avoids the deportation of more than three hundred thousand individuals to countries unfit to accommodate them and, equally importantly, prevents the separation of hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizen children from their parents,” the plaintiffs said in a statement to USA Today.
“Judge Chen’s decision reaffirms the importance of our judicial system and the checks and balances in place to hold our government accountable,” they said.
The ruling does not affect the termination of TPS for two other countries: Nepal and Honduras. But attorneys are sure to press other courts to follow suit and temporarily suspend those decisions.
Contributing: Daniel Gonzalez of the Arizona Republic

July 17, 2018

Judge Criticizes Trump Admin For Not Responding Promptly to His Order For Children Unifications


Image result for border caged babies









The federal judge who ordered the swift reunification of thousands of migrant families sharply chastised the Trump administration late on Friday, after it said that complying with the judge’s order would increase the risk of harm to children.

The Health and Human Services Department outlined a new, more accelerated plan to return nearly 3,000 migrant children to their parents by a July 26 deadline. But it also said that doing so required faster vetting procedures and would probably place the children in abusive environments or with adults falsely claiming to be their parents.

In a court filing that included the new plan, Chris Meekins, the deputy assistant secretary of preparedness and response, said, “While I am fully committed to complying with this court’s order, I do not believe that the placing of children into such situations is consistent with the mission of H.H.S. or my core values.”

The judge, Dana M. Sabraw of Federal District Court in San Diego, was not moved.

“Unfortunately, H.H.S. appears to be operating in a vacuum, entirely divorced from the undisputed circumstances of this case,” he said. Its position, he added, was inconsistent with explicit statements from top government officials — including the president himself — that the reunifications proceed, and quickly. 

Judge Sabraw also said that the department had itself sped up its vetting procedures before the court order, and that safe reunifications “can be accomplished in the time and manner prescribed.”

“It is clear from Mr. Meekins’s declaration that H.H.S. either does not understand the court’s orders or is acting in defiance of them,” he said.
 
A spokeswoman for Health and Human Services, Evelyn Stauffer, said in a statement Saturday that the department was trying earnestly to comply with the court order. Its interpretation of the order, she added, was that it need not conduct the fuller vetting process it normally would to ensure the children’s safety.

“In the interests of transparency and cooperation,” Ms. Stauffer said, “the department felt it necessary in our filings on Friday to share with the court our view that meeting the deadline would mean truncating the process we might have otherwise followed.”

The government says in its new reunification plan that it will return up to 200 children per day to their families. Parents in detention will be sent to one of six to eight facilities and vetted using two basic checks, one for criminal history and another to confirm parentage. Then the child will be moved to that facility within 24 to 48 hours. 

It is still unclear whether the government will seek to keep some of the families in detention long-term or release them into the country using ankle monitors to track the parents. At least some have already been moved into family detention centers, where the government can legally hold them for up to 20 days, according to Bridget Cambria, a lawyer representing a Brazilian father and son who were reunited on Friday at one such facility, the Berks Detention Center in Pennsylvania.

Ms. Cambria said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had flown the father from El Paso to Chicago, first to meet his son, and then flew them together to the detention center, which is near Reading, Pa. While the young boy seemed happy on Friday, an unknown future awaited the family, she said.

“Sitting with him today, he looked 1,000 times better than he did before,” Ms. Cambria said. “He wouldn’t let go of his dad, but he should be able to be in a community-based environment to deal with the trauma he has gone through and not be sitting in detention.”

She said she represented another Brazilian father and his son, 16, who was in Chicago; they, however, had a different outcome. They both were released to a sponsor in New England and prepared to apply for asylum.

The government’s plan was filed after a hearing in a lawsuit against the government over its family separation practice, and a chaotic week of down-to-the-wire reunions of a small subset of the separated children — those under 5 years old — with some false starts and delays.

The administration faces a much more daunting task ahead. Only 57 children under the age of 5 were reunited in the first phase, while 2,551 other children remain in custody, according to the latest government estimates.

Judge Sabraw on Friday laid out a set of intermediary deadlines, intended to prevent the last-minute execution of the first phase. He said that the government must confirm all parent-child relationships by July 19, a week before the final reunification deadline, and give at least 12 hours’ notice before a reunification of the location and identities of the parent and child. 

Advocates hoped that the new deadlines would allow them to mobilize in time to provide the reunited families with emergency shelter, clothing, and food. Many of the families will be released in states far away from their relatives or support networks. Some were released last week without any money or place to go, including the mother of a 6-month-old baby who, according to court documents, was left by immigration agents at a bus station until she obtained a bus ticket around midnight.

Still, the judge was pleased with the government’s progress overall.

“The parties are really working through the issues in a very measured and successful way given the enormity of the undertaking,” he said.

Family separations began quietly last fall and ramped up in May with the announcement of the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. After a thunderous public outcry, they halted abruptly on June 20 with an executive order from President Trump, who reiterated his commitment to tough immigration enforcement but drew the line at family separation.

The government failed to meet its Tuesday deadline for reunifying children under 5 but had done so for all who were eligible by the end of the week.

To streamline the process, the government said it would use DNA testing sparingly to confirm parentage. It would rely on documentation and what Judge Sabraw called “common sense” in the vast majority of cases, to make the reunifications happen more quickly.

Questions remain about the futures of children whose parents have been deported without them, which Judge Sabraw called “one of the disturbing realities of this situation.” He set a deadline of seven days for returning those children to their parents once the government had secured the documents necessary for them to travel.
Liz Robbins contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on July 15, 2018, on Page A22 on The New York Times

July 11, 2018

Judge Rules Trump Cannot Detain The Migrant Children Indefinitely





When President Trump signed the executive order last month that ended the separation of migrant families, he effectively swapped one controversial practice for another — in this case, the indefinite detention of whole families. And the questions weren't long in coming from some observers, who pointed out that the order appeared to violate a 1997 legal settlement that has been interpreted as barring such indefinite detentions.
At the signing last month, Trump himself acknowledged the likely legal battles on the horizon: "There may be some litigation," he conceded, instructing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to request modifications to that settlement.
Now, events in court are bearing out those predictions of legal trouble.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee rejected the request for "limited relief" from the settlement, often known as the Flores agreement, that served as the basis for a 2015 court order preventing the federal detention of migrant children for more than 20 days.
The provision played a key role in the decision to separate families in the first place, according to administration officials. That's because the move to a "zero-tolerance" immigration policy — which detained and prosecuted migrants for illegal border crossings rather than releasing them before their proceedings — would keep parents in detention longer than their children legally could be.


Now that those separations have been ordered to end, federal attorneys had sought an exemption allowing authorities to exceed the 20-day limit. They said that to comply with a separate court order — which mandated the reunification of families already separated under Trump's policy — authorities would need more time to match kids with their parents.
But Gee made clear that she was not impressed.
 In blunt terms, Gee variously described the Justice Department's argument as "dubious and unconvincing," "tortured," and "procedurally improper and wholly without merit."
"It is apparent that Defendants' Application is a cynical attempt ... to shift responsibility to the Judiciary for over 20 years of Congressional inaction and ill-considered Executive action that have led to the current stalemate," she wrote.
The Justice Department did not immediately announce whether it intends to pursue an appeal — but it did voice displeasure with Gee's conclusions.
"We disagree with the court's ruling declining to amend the Flores Agreement to recognize the current crisis of families making the dangerous and unlawful journey across our southern border," department spokesman Devin O'Malley said in a statement to the media.
The ruling marked the second courtroom setback Monday for federal attorneys, who had acknowledged earlier in the day that authorities would fail to meet a deadlineestablished by a separate court order. That deadline, set for Tuesday, had mandated that authorities return all of the youngest migrant children in federal custody to their parents. But attorneys told a San Diego courtroom Monday that officials would be able to reunite only about half of the 102 detained children who are under 5 years old. 
It remains unclear what comes next for Trump and his immigration policy, which faces some of the same difficult problems that confronted his predecessor. As evidenced by the 2015 order based on Flores, President Obama also struggled with the conundrum of how to prevent and prosecute illegal border crossings without detaining violators for excessive periods.
The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, eventually settled on a policy of releasing some immigrants while their legal proceedings unfold — but Trump has derided the practice as ineffective "catch and release."
At any rate, Gee maintained in her ruling that those deliberations, as difficult as they seem to be, are less important than the children affected by them.
"Regardless, what is certain is that the children who are the beneficiaries of the Flores Agreement's protections and who are now in Defendants' custody are blameless," she added. "They are subject to the decisions made by adults over whom they have no control. In implementing the Agreement, their best interests should be paramount."

 NPR


October 26, 2017

Judge Would Give You $100 off While on His Practice for a BJ






A man swore in a court document that St. Clair County Circuit Judge Ron Duebbert propositioned him, fondled him, then offered to discount his legal bill by $100 if the man performed a sex act on him while Duebbert was in private practice.
 This GOP Judge was at his Practice negotiating for sex.  This is being reported because this client said "No."
The man, now 25, filed the affidavit Monday as part of a motion to vacate his guilty plea to a felony charge of aggravated fleeing from police.
The man alleged that on Oct. 14, 2016, just weeks before Duebbert defeated then-Chief Judge John Baricevic at the polls, the two met in Duebbert’s Belleville office to discuss his felony case, and that’s when the alleged sexual assault occurred.
The man alleged Duebbert told him he would take $100 off of his bill if the man performed oral sex on Duebbert. The man refused “He then reached into my shorts, felt the side of my body and grabbed my penis through my underwear,” the victim wrote in the sworn affidavit. “I freaked out. I froze up for a second. I felt disgusted. I told him I’m not gay. Don’t touch me that way.”
The Belleville News-Democrat does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.
Duebbert declined to speak with a reporter Monday afternoon. He has said the Democrats are trying to unseat him because he is a Republican and gay.
Just a few days before Duebbert was sworn-in as judge, the man and Duebbert met in a courtroom where Duebbert introduced him to Dedra Moore, a lawyer who would be taking over his case.
The man alleged that because of the sexual assault and harassment, and Moore’s likely knowledge of it, he did not enter his guilty plea voluntarily.
“To the best of his knowledge and belief, Dedra Moore was probably aware of his misconduct due to her representation of Duebbert and, therefore the incompetency of her counsel continued during her representation,” the motion to withdraw the guilty plea stated.
Moore declined to comment Monday. She represents Duebbert on matters relating to a case being investigated by a special prosecutor involving Duebbert.
Alex Enyart, the man’s attorney who filed the motion Monday, stated that Moore had an “obvious conflict of interest.”
“I believe this is a credible claim otherwise we would not have failed to vacate his guilty plea,” Enyart said in the motion to withdraw the guilty plea. 
He added that he fulfilled his reporting requirements by notifying the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Board and the Judicial Inquiry Board, which handles complaints against judges and judicial candidates.
Earlier this month, State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly requested a special prosecutor to review a sexual abuse allegation against Duebbert. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the victim, in that case, is the same as the man who filed the motion to vacate his guilty plea Monday.
In 1999, Duebbert was charged with battery in connection with an 18-year-old man’s allegation that Duebbert fondled him. The 18-year-old was in the St. Clair County Building to appear in court on a 1998 burglary charge. He alleged that Duebbert offered him a ride to his office in his Lexus, then fondled him inside the car.
A special prosecutor is also reviewing evidence submitted by the Major Case Squad regarding Duebbert’s alleged obstruction of justice in a murder case. Duebbert was accused of making false statements about murder suspect David Fields, who once lived in Duebbert’s Belleville home. Fields are accused of the first-degree murder of Carl Z. Silas, of Belleville, on Dec. 30.
Duebbert appeared before a grand jury in July. No charges have been issued in the case.
The disposition of the 1999 case is unclear because it is no longer listed on the circuit clerk’s webpage. Charges such as battery can be expunged from a person’s court record with a court order.
Last week, Duebbert was involved in a motorcycle accident near Gainesville, Florida, but he was back at work Monday. Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson has placed Duebbert on administrative duties, but he continues to be paid.

Read more here: http://www.bnd.com/news/local/article180466326.html#storylink=cpy

May 21, 2017

Anti Gay Judge is Side Step on a Gay Adoption Case





  
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A Kentucky family court judge who openly declared his opposition to adoptions by gay couples has been blocked from instituting a measure that may have let him avoid handling such cases.
Judge W. Mitchell Nance recently submitted a proposed procedural change to the state’s chief justice, John D. Minton Jr. Minton denied the request on procedural and substantive grounds, state Administrative Office of the Courts spokeswoman Leigh Anne Hiatt said Friday.
Nance declined comment through a court official.
The judge is under attack from civil rights groups seeking his removal from the bench. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky and other groups complained this week to the state’s judicial disciplinary commission about Nance.
Minton’s denial of the proposal was praised by gay-rights activist Chris Hartman.
“Creating an additional legal hurdle for LGBT couples to jump over in order to achieve their adoption is inappropriate and against the law,” said Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, a Louisville-based, nonprofit LGBT advocacy group.
Hartman said a complaint accusing Nance of violating the state’s judicial conduct code will still move forward.
Kentucky law allows gay couples to adopt.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2015 that effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide cited adoptions by same-sex couples as “powerful confirmation from the law itself that gays and lesbians can create loving, supportive families.”
The ruling also emphasized that people whose religious doctrines forbid condoning same-sex marriage must be given “proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”
Nance hears family court cases in Barren and Metcalfe counties, a rural stretch of south-central Kentucky.
Before submitting his proposed rule to the state’s chief justice, Nance filed an order in late April stating that attorneys should notify court officials if their adoption cases involve gay adults, so he can take steps to recuse himself. He cited a state law requiring judges to disqualify themselves from proceedings when they have a personal bias or prejudice.
In that order, Nance said he believes as a “matter of conscience” that “under no circumstance” would it be in a child’s best interest to be adopted “by a practicing homosexual.”
He said his “conscientious objection to the concept of adoption of a child by a practicing homosexual may constitute ‘personal bias or prejudice’” that would require his recusal.
That order had not been rescinded by Nance as of Friday afternoon, a Barren County court official said.
The judge’s defenders include the Family Foundation of Kentucky, which also supported Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who spent five days in jailfor refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on her religious beliefs.
Martin Cothran, a spokesman for the nonprofit family advocacy group based in Lexington, said this week that he couldn’t imagine the state’s Judicial Conduct Commission ruling against Nance “for doing what the law requires him to do — recuse himself if he believes his views might bias a case.”
Meanwhile, Nance recently stepped aside from a case in which a transgender person was seeking a domestic violence order, and the case was transferred to another judge.
Nance’s recusal “further illustrates why nothing short of removal from office will cure Judge Nance’s ongoing ethical violations,” said William Sharp, legal director for the ACLU of Kentucky.



Print this article Back to Top

April 30, 2017

The10 Commandments AntiGay Ousted Judge Wants Session Senate Seat







 Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, under suspension for opposing a federal court order on same-sex "marriage," is running for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“I know I share the vision of our President Donald Trump to make America great again," the 70-year-old conservative said. But "before we can make America great again, we’ve got to make America good again.”
The outspoken Christian is pro-life and opposes "socialized medicine" in general and the Obama Health and Human Services abortion coverage mandate in particular. But he is most famous for his public stand against homosexual "marriage."  
“The foundations of the fabric of our country are being shaken tremendously,” Moore said at a press conference. “Our families are being crippled by divorce and abortion. Our sacred institution of marriage has been destroyed by the Supreme Court, and our rights and liberties are in jeopardy.”
Moore has also criticized “gender identity” theory and "Common Core" liberal values in public schools.
When Sessions joined President Trump's cabinet, his senate seat was given to former state attorney general Luther Strange, who has thrown his hat into the primary. Others vying for the position include state Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, and the Christian Coalition of Alabama's Randy Brinson.
“As United States senator, I will continue to stand for the rights and liberties not only of (the people of) this state but of (the) people (of this nation) as well ... so help me God," Moore pledged.
Last year, Moore's service as the state Supreme Court Chief Justice was suspended because he advised probate judges to follow state law banning homosexual "marriage" while his court reviewed the conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court's Obergefell decision. Immediately, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Human Rights Campaign, and other liberal groups began an intense campaign against him.
Moore countered that he was only clearing up confusion among probate judges over conflicting state and federal orders.
More than a decade ago, Moore opined, "The homosexual conduct of a parent" is "sufficient justification for denying that parent custody of his or her own children or prohibiting the adoption of the children of others."
In 2003, Moore refused to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments at the Alabama Judicial Building despite orders to do so from a federal judge and was removed as Chief Justice.
After his removal, Moore sought political office but lost in the Republican 2006 and 2010 gubernatorial primaries. He then was elected back into the office of Alabama Chief Justice in 2012.
Gov. Kay Ivey has set the date of the Republican primary for August 15.  Whoever is chosen by registered Republicans will face a Democratic challenger on December 12.

April 18, 2017

Federal Judge Resigns After Sentencing a Young Man to Life







No longer bound by ethics rules that keep judges silent, Sharp in an exclusive interview Saturday with The Tennessean denounced mandatory minimum sentences.
 
Kevin H. Sharp served as a federal judge in Nashville for 6 years. He was nominated by Barack Obama.
He'll work in private practice, handling employment and civil rights cases.
As a lawyer, he can be an advocate and said he hopes to level the playing field for minorities.
In an exclusive interview, he revealed he hopes to advocate for one man in particular: Chris Young.
 
Kevin H. Sharp sent Chris Young to prison for life and he thought it was wrong.

"Each defendant is supposed to be treated as an individual," Sharp said at the sentencing hearing in 2014. "I don't think that's happening here."

But there are duties that come with a black robe and gavel, chief among them following the laws of the United States no matter your personal opinion. And as a federal judge, Sharp had to impose mandatory minimum terms. That meant Young, a repeat drug offender, would never go home to Clarksville.

Young, now 28, is at a federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky.

Sharp, now 54, is starting a new job and still thinking of Young.

The former chief U.S. District judge in Middle Tennessee resigned his post Friday, ending a lifetime appointment after six years. On Monday, he'll begin work at Sanford Heisler, expanding the respected civil rights and employment law firm into Music City while also expanding its title: Sanford Heisler Sharp.

In an exclusive interview on Saturday, Sharp talked about his tenure on the bench and his decision to leave it. No longer bound by ethics rules that keep judges silent, he denounced mandatory minimum sentences and previewed the topics he'll attack at the civil rights firm.

Those coalesce with Young. Talking about the case brought tears to Sharp's eyes and emotion choked his speech.

"If there was any way I could have not given him life in prison I would have done it," he said. "What they did was wrong, they deserved some time in prison, but not life."

Read a transcript of the sentencing at the end of this story.

'What we do kind of defines who we are'

Some of Sharp's motivation to move jobs was rooted in his path to becoming a lawyer more than 20 years ago. The Memphis native held odd jobs after high school: as an airport baggage handler, at a car wash — and even carrying a baseball bat around a gas station making sure self-service customers paid.

"I’d go hey, you pay for that? I thought, this is not really a career."

He enlisted in U.S. Navy. He was stationed in Hawaii, Alaska, the Philippines, Japan and Thailand. Despite the cultural differences, there was a common thread.

“I realized that, what we do kind of defines who we are," he said. "People meet me and they go, 'Nice to meet you Kevin, what do you do?'

"All this stuff gets layered on there. They make stereotypical decisions about who you are and what you’re like."

Whether those assumptions are right or wrong, Sharp said he grew to believe that a person's opportunity to work needed to be protected, which attracted him to employment law.

"African Americans, women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities don’t have the same opportunities," he said. “That to me is something that’s important, making sure the playing field gets leveled.” 

Money$ Makes the World go around $

Sharp went to Vanderbilt Law School and then into private practice. President Barack Obama nominated him for the Nashville judgeship six years  ago.

Work on the bench was intellectually challenging, and fun, he said. But Sharp saw that cases presenting significant issues came along unpredictably, and he couldn't choose the issues. One example: The legal challenge to a private probation company in Rutherford County, in which several probationers said they were being punished because they couldn't pay. In one hearing, Rutherford County General Sessions Judge Ben McFarlin Jr. testified.

"Money makes the world go 'round," McFarlin testified.

"I thought, Oh my God, no," Sharp recalled his reaction in court that day. "Money is not what makes the justice system go round.

"That’s not just morally wrong, it’s illegal. It’s unconstitutional.” 

But in other high-profile cases his hands were tied by the law, and rulings countered what Sharp personally believed. He named specifically a case brought by a family against Nashville schools alleging discrimination in the district's rezoning plan. In 2012, Sharp ruled that although the effect of the district policy was segregation, the plaintiff did not prove the intent was discrimination.

"The proof wasn’t there and the law wasn’t on their side," he said. "If I was director of schools, I’d go, scrap this."

"As a lawyer I can be more proactive," he said. "I can say things I want to say. I can take cases I want to take. I can advocate for positions that I want to advocate for — as opposed to waiting as a judge, do I get that case or not?"

A sticking point during Sharp's time on the bench were criminal cases, colloquially known as "drugs and guns" cases, that required mandatory minimum sentences.

"The drugs-and-guns cases, you say it like that and it sounds like they’re all dangerous," he said. "Most of them are not. They’re just kids who lack any opportunities and any supervision, lack education and have ended up doing what appears to be at the time the path of least resistance to make a living."

'Maybe somebody can fix this'

Young's was a drugs-and-guns case. He was charged in December 2010, one of 32 people — some of them gang members — who federal prosecutors said were involved in drug trafficking in Clarksville. Court documents say federal agents believed Young was buying crack cocaine from a leader of the ring at a gas station. He was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and crack cocaine and other counts.

Young had two prior drug-dealing convictions, and his new charges triggered a provision of federal law requiring a mandatory life term if found guilty. Young and two others went to trial in August 2013 and were found guilty. About a year later, Sharp sentenced Young to life in prison.

At the hearing, Young described his upbringing: His mother was a drug addict, he said, and at times their house had no lights nor water. When he was old enough to get a job, he worked at a funeral home, but he felt a growing divide between himself and others in his neighborhood who dealt drugs, pulling him that way.

Hallie McFadden, a lawyer who defended Young, said each time she saw Sharp after the sentencing he asked about Young.

"I'm heartsick to see him go," she said of Sharp, "especially with the prospect of someone far less caring taking the seat."

Jim Thomas, a Nashville lawyer who later represented Young during his appeals and has had other cases in Sharp's courtroom, said Sharp was a "very capable and fair minded judge." That was exemplified in Sharp's words at Young's sentencing, according to Thomas.

"Maybe somebody can fix this," Sharp told Young.

Maybe that somebody is Sharp.

Sharp says he will work to get Young's sentence commuted, meaning Young would be released from prison. It could take years, leaving Young behind bars for a decade.

This story is coming from
Federal judge forced to sentence defendant to life because of mandatory minimums is stepping down and speaking out

Featured Posts

He Died and Within Hours He Was Released to us "washed, dressed, Laid on a Table" Overlooking The Garden

Rich Stewart, 77, and wife Sharon, 78. Rich died last month and his funeral was held at their home, a practice that turns out...