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Hate-Crime Laws, which have for years been promoted by politicians as an important way to protect selected classes of people from criminals, are again in the news.  Interestingly, many who noisily support severe punishment for hate crimes also oppose tough sentencing for the same offense when it is not committed against a member of some politically significant group.  Richard Cohen's piece in yesterday's Washington Post, titled The Folly of Hate-Crime Laws and a San Francisco Chronicle article, Another hate-crimes bill, by Debra Saunders discuss the political grandstanding and dubious value to public safety that is associated with hate-crime laws.

Let 'Em Go:  A three-member panel of federal judges, appointed in 2007 to consider if the Constitution required inmate release from California's overcrowded prisons, has spoken.  New York Times writer Solomon Moore reports that "in a scathing 184-page order" the judges gave state officials 45 days to come up with a plan to release 40,000 inmates over the next two years. This remarkably-timed announcement comes just two weeks before the California Legislature is set to vote on a cost-cutting proposal by Democrats and Governor Schwarzenegger which hinges on the release of 27,000 inmates from state prisons.  The panel's announcement is no surprise to anyone familiar with the Ninth Circuit.  Judges Lawrence Karlton, Thelton Henderson and Stephen Reinhardt are arguably the most inmate-friendly federal jurists in the U.S.  Fortunately, the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, requires that the appeal of an inmate-release order go directly to the United States Supreme Court.  CJLF will be submitting argument in that appeal.

4 Comments

How are these panels picked? It's remarkable that, in 2009, all three members are Carter appointees!

I've never been comfortable with the idea that a violent crime that involves the use of an ethnic slur should be punished more harshly than an equally violent crime without the slur.

Plus, it's not only so-called "hate" crimes that are problematic as far as doling out extra punishment because of who the victim is. I've never been quite convinced that killing a police officer (who at least is trained to defend himself/herself and carries a gun) should be a capital crime, while killing, let's say, a wheelchair-bound adult (with no accompanying rape, robbery, etc.) is not a capital crime.

Hate crimes laws make sense for low-level crimes. We probably want to differentiate between a prank, like TPing someones trees, and a sign left on a lawn telling someone to "Go Home".

Another issue with hate crimes is selective enforcement.

The three judges are chosen by the chief judge of the circuit, in this case former chief judge Mary Schroeder. She could not have made three worse choices if she had the entire federal bench to choose from.

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