Prosecutor, then Judge, then Remand

The Seventh Circuit ruled today that the public’s confidence in the federal judiciary might be undermined if the Judge, who once served as the defendant’s prosecutor, sentenced the same defendant in a case before her.

Judge Posner, writing for the Court in in USA v. Jessie A. Smith ruled that a sentencing “do-over” was necessary because the District Court Judge once prosecuted the defendant.

Judge Darrow sentenced the defendant to 15 months for violating conditions of supervised release. While remarking that the defendant’s current profile was not that of a dangerous criminal and expressing doubt about the utility of his continued imprisonment, the Court indicated that they would have affirmed Judge Darrow’s judgment had they not discovered in the record a Violation Memorandum, (not mentioned by neither party), that had been prepared by probation shortly before the defendant was sentenced by another district judge for an earlier violation of supervised release.

The document stated that the assistant U.S. attorney handling the revocation case was Sara Darrow, who six months later was confirmed as a federal district judge. Case remanded for a new sentencing in front of a different District Judge.

Case decided January 5th, 2015.

The federal criminal defense lawyers at NLKJ represent people charged with federal crimes in both the District Court and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Click here for more information.