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Judicial Intemperance

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Judson Berger reports on FOXNews.com,

The Senate Judiciary Committee has postponed the hearing for a controversial Court of Appeals nominee after the panel received a letter from a home-state prosecutor blasting the candidate as a judicial loose cannon and after Republicans raised concerns about bias in favor of sex offenders.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chatigny gained notoriety in 2005 for his role in trying to fight the execution of convicted serial killer and rapist Michael Ross, also known as The Roadside Strangler, whom Chatigny had described as a victim of his own "sexual sadism."

When it comes to the goals of representation, the rules are quite clear: the client is in charge. See, e.g., ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2. Michael Ross was a "volunteer" who decided to waive his appeals and receive his punishment. His lawyer's duty was to achieve the client's goal. Whenever someone "volunteers," the anti side generally runs in and claims he must be crazy, using a variation of the original Catch-22. But in fact waiving appeals can be a rational choice. It was in Ross's case, and the lawyer did the right thing. Judge Chatigny nonetheless threatened the lawyer with loss of his license in an appalling display of judicial intemperance.  From the story:

"I've never seen conduct like this," said a Republican source. "I'm shocked that the White House vetted this guy ... and still put him up for a judgeship."

Also appalling is Judge Chatigny's assertion that sadism is "clearly mitigating" in a capital case. Not everything that has a code in the DSM is mitigating. Antisocial personality disorder is a code for behavior that is aggravating. Describing a sadistic rapist and murderer as a "victim" indicates a seriously skewed view of criminality. Sadism is defined by urges, not by an inability to resist them. A person who has an urge to do things the rest of us would not want to do is nonetheless fully responsible for his voluntary choice to act on them.


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