Friday, May 21, 2010

A Great Judge: The Hon. Jack B. Weinstein

Today's online New York Times has an article about Judge Jack B. Weinstein. The article describes (how accurately or inaccurately, I do not know) Judge Weinstein's efforts to avoid imposing a harsh sentence on a man accused and convicted of downloading pornographic images of children; the article describes Judge Weinstein's efforts to avoid the efforts of his superiors on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to force Weinstein to impose the harsh sentence that Weinstein is apparently so determined not to impose.

As the article states, this is "quintessential Weinstein." His former colleague John S. Martin reportedly said, "Jack is somebody who will step out and do what he thinks is right and take his chances of being overturned by an appeals court. ... He sees the injustice in these things and he tries to do something about it."

  • I would not have had the courage to do what Judge Weinstein routinely does. This is one reason why I decided long ago I never wanted to be a judge.
  • Judge Weinstein is one of the great judges of the 20th and 21st centuries. This is not just because this 88 year-old man voluntarily carries a full caseload, continues to author many speeches and articles, and has an original and powerful perspective on evidentiary processes, including a willingness to consider the bearing of formal statistical evidence and probabilistic argument in forensic proof. Judge Weinstein is a great judge also because he has never lost sight of the idea that law is or ought to be about justice and that law ought to be humane.

    Now it is true that many injustices have been committed in the name of justice. But it is also true that many crimes have been committed in the name of law bereft of justice. (Think, e.g., of Nazi or Stalinist judges.) This is an instance in which I have to say that I know a just man when a see one: in Weinstein I see a just, humane, and wise man and judge.

    It is almost literally a crime that our society could not bring itself to make Judge Jack B. Weinstein a member of our society's supposedly most-elevated legal institution, the Supreme Court of the United States. Instead we generally (but, thankfully, not always) elevate technocrats and bureaucrats to that high bench. May God forgive us.

    N.B. I do not know if Pres. Obama's nominees have empathy. However, I do know that "empathy" is not a dirty word.


    The dynamic evidence page

    It's here: the law of evidence on Spindle Law. See also this post and this post.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    Book Review

    Bernard Robertson, "Comparative Criminal Process", [2010] New Zealand Law Journal 122 (book review):

    [Mirjan Damaska's] career is celebrated in a collection of essays edited by John Jackson, Maximo Langer and Peter Tillers Crime, Procedure and Evidence in a Comparative and International Context (Hart Publishing, 2008).

    Like all such books of essays, the book covers a range of subject matter, not all of which may be of interest to all readers. It is, however, quite common for evidence to be taught by academics also interested in criminal law and procedure and even criminal justice issues, since the boundaries between these subjects can be porous. All such academics will want access to this book, at least in their libraries.

    [snip, snip]

    It can readily be seen, then, that this book contains much that touches on current debates in New Zealand and in particular will be of interest to those engaged in reviewing the performance of the Evidence Act 2006. That Act is causing fundamental questions to do with the meaning of relevance and prejudice to appear in court in a way that they did not when these principles were unstated. Each of the papers also serves as a good signpost to other writing in the same area. Honours and Masters students studying evidence or criminal procedure should be reading the relevant papers in this book. Likewise, advanced level comparative law students should be contemplating whether comparative method is useful in these areas of law, rather than just in the traditional subjects of contract and property law.


    The dynamic evidence page

    It's here: the law of evidence on Spindle Law. See also this post and this post.