October 27, 2008

McCain on federal judges

"Our nation needs a new direction — different from the path pursued by the current administration," writes Senator John McCain today in the National Law Journal. So what's going to be different? McCain promises to "appoint strict constructionist judges."

Whatever that's supposed to mean, it's exactly the direction pursued by the current administration: "I would pick people who would be strict constructionists," quoth George W. Bush. Not different.

As for his own current rival, McCain says of he, "Senator Obama's judges would coddle criminals." McCain offers no elucidation, but presumably this is a reference to Obama's apparent opposition to federal mandatory minimum sentences.

Mandatory minimum sentences remove discretion from the sentencing judge who is faced with a case-specific set of facts and mitigating circumstances that simply may not warrant the imposition of the minimum sentence, which is mandated by statute.

That's not how justice is done, and that's not how judges should be forced to do their jobs.

Senator Obama is certainly not alone in that opposition, and Prof. Douglas Berman, at his Sentencing Law and Policy blog, links to a 21-page compilation of conservative judges voicing their own reservations (to say the least) with mandatory minimum sentences.

Somehow I wouldn't expect John McCain to accuse Frank Easterbrook or William Rehnquist or any of the dozens of other federal judges and prosecutors cited of "coddling criminals." But consistency would demand it, if that is the basis for his accusation against Obama.

Lack of consistency aside, what's especially amusing is that in the very same NLJ piece, Senator McCain pledges to de-politicize the Justice Department, whereas demonizing his opponent for the crime of opposing mandatory minimum sentencing and "coddling criminals" is about as cheap as political pandering comes.

I guess McCain doesn't do irony either.

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