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** A New Twist Against Judges

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  • jail4judges
    J.A.I.L. News Journal ____________________________________________________ Los Angeles, California October 13, 2001 A
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 13, 2001
      J.A.I.L. News Journal
      Los Angeles, California                                          October 13, 2001 
      A New Twist Against Judges
      Convicted Killer Wins Appeal Over Judge's Drug Use
      Los Angeles Times   
      October 13, 2001  pg. A18
      by Henry Weinstein,
      Times Legal Affairs Writer
      A man who has spent nearly 20 years on death row in Arizona is entitled to have his sentence reconsidered because the judge who imposed it was addicted to marijuana at the time, a sharply divided federal appeals court ruled Friday.
      "The experts tell us that we can tolerate a certain number of insignificant parts of arsenic in our drinking water and a certain irreducible number of insect parts in our edible grain supplies," U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen S. Trott wrote in the 2-to-1 decision. "But we need not, and we should not, similarly tolerate a single drug-addicted jurist whose judgment is impaired, especially in a case involving life-and-death decisions.
      "If it is against the law to drive a vehicle under the influence of marijuana, surely it must be at least equally offensive to allow a judge in a similar condition to preside over a capital trial," added Trott, a former prosecutor who was appointed by President Reagan.
      Judge Alex Kozinski issued a sharp dissent, maintaining that his colleagues had taken "a giant leap into the unknown by ordering discovery and a hearing on whether Judge [Philip] Marquardt's marijuana addiction affected his rulings."
      In Arizona, a state trial judge has the sole power to determine whether a defendant convicted of first-degree murder receives a death sentence. That differs from most states where jurors are asked to make a recommendation.
      The Arizona attorney's general's office conceded that Marquardt's use of the drug was in full bloom at the time of the trial....
      Marquardt's marijuana problem emerged several years after the trial. In 1991, he pleaded guilty to a felony involving a conspiracy to possess marijuana and "admitted to suffering from an addiction to the drug," Trott wrote. This was Marquardt's second conviction involving the use of marijuana.
      "The majority's opinion will open the floodgates to similar claims by --quite literally-- tens of thousands of state and federal prisoners within this circuit," Kozinski wrote.
      Trott, joined by Circuit Judge Sidney R. Thomas, scoffed at Kozinski's prediction of dire consequences. "We seriously doubt the inflated assertion that thousands of state and federal judges will somehow fall within the ultra violet rays cast by our holding," Trott wrote.
      On the other hand, "if Judge Kozinski's speculation about the vulnerable state of the judiciary should surprisingly turn out to be correct and that our benches are indeed occupied by judges against whom similar cases involving illegal drug usage and addiction can be made, this would seem to be an argument in favor of an inquiry, not a reason to look the other way," Trott wrote.
      Northwestern law professor Steven Lubet, an expert on judicial behavior, said Trott's reasoning seemed unassailable but added that he understood Kozinski's concerns about a large number of investigations based on similar claims. "This case exposes the raw intersection of judicial decision making and administrative imperatives," Lubet said.
      *   *   *

      Judge Steve Trott and I have known each other on a friendly basis for the past twenty years. Every time one of my cases came before Trott in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Trott made known his knowledge of me to the other side and excused himself from the case.
      Prior to his appointment to U.S. Attorney by President Ronald Reagan for the County of Los Angeles and six other California Counties, and then to the Ninth Circuit, Trott and I sat down and had a serious discussion on Constitutional issues and intents of our Founding Fathers.  I was at the right place at the right time.             - Ron Branson

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