Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Justice Anthony Kennedy Criticizes Sentences, Prison Union Lobbying
By TINA BAY, Staff Writer
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy yesterday criticized the federal Sentencing Guidelines and the lobbying efforts of correctional officers’ unions.
“The only thing worse than sentencing under the guidelines is sentencing without them,” he told judges and lawyers from across the Ninth Circuit yesterday. “I think the guidelines are far too severe,” he added, explaining that spending money on prisoners while failing to invest in efforts to inform at-risk groups about sentencing undermined the principle of deterrence.
“The fact that the prison guards’ association lobbies for higher penalties is sick,” he added emphatically.
Kennedy was the opening speaker at this year’s Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference in Huntington Beach, beginning the conference with a tribute to the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist and recently retired Justice Sandra Day O’ Connor.
The annual conference, which rotates among the nine states in the circuit, focuses this year on “Seismic Shifts in the Law and in Our Lives” and runs through Thursday at the Hyatt Regency.
Last held in the Central District of California in 1998, this year’s conference will host approximately 1,500 attendees including all of the judges from the federal courts in the circuit, Assistant Circuit Executive David J. Madden told the MetNews.
Kennedy, a Sacramento native and former Ninth Circuit judge who this past February replaced O’Connor as circuit justice for the Ninth Circuit, made special arrangements to visit the conference briefly before flying to Salzburg, Austria to teach a constitutional law course for McGeorge Law School, conference organizers said.
“I’m delighted to be back in the Ninth Circuit and my home state,” Kennedy told the audience after being introduced by Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Mary Schroeder.
Kennedy told the attendees that he and they owed a great debt to Rehnquist and O’Connor for their efforts and commitment to the court.
Likening Rehnquist to the late Chief Justice John Marshall, Kennedy expressed admiration for Rehnquist’s extremely well-ordered mind and insistence on precision down to the details.
Kennedy also said that Rehnquist adhered to consistent theory and although he did not always agree with the chief justice, for instance in how he implemented federalism, he respected him for his consistency.
“It must have hurt to see cartoons in newspapers all over the country portray him as a hangman, a cold person. He was the warmest, most compassionate, most decent of people. He was a marvelous officer…one of the fairest presiding officers I have ever seen,” Kennedy said.
O’Connor, who grew up in Arizona while it was a relatively new state, enriched the court with a frontier mindset that greatly valued friendliness and equality, Kennedy said, adding that O’Connor had given him a warm personal welcome when he first arrived at the court, and taught her colleagues to welcome foreign ambassadors inquiring about America’s judiciary.
“She never told me this, but I just know that being the first woman on the Supreme Court was not easy,” he said. “But she did it such equanimity and such dignity.”
Kennedy’s remarks on sentencing came in a post-address question-and-answer session with Circuit Judge Consuelo M. Callahan and Ninth Circuit Advisory Board member Merrilee MacLean, Esq., briefly sharing his thoughts on various issues, including the “swing vote,” sentencing, and the new chief justice.
When asked by MacLean for his thoughts on the rumor that now briefs are drafted and arguments are directed now being addressed to Kennedy’s attention, the justice kept his comments on the “swing vote” very short.
“I know with Sandra they tested that term. It implies a certain amount of inconsistency, but what happens is the caseload swings; it’s on one side or the other of the jurisprudence,” he said, later commenting that the court is much more stable than anyone would think.
Responding to an audience question, Kennedy called Chief Justice John G. Roberts absolutely “absolutely delightful,” expressing respect for his abilities, and saying that his arrival has livened up dialogue among the jurists.
“When we have new colleagues, we want to show these colleagues who we are and what our jurisprudence is. With new justices, you strut off your stuff, so discussions are more lively,” he said.
Roberts is scheduled to speak at the conference on Thursday. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who arrives at the conference today, will also be participating but does not yet have an official speaking slot.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company