USAC Banner 728x90



No announcement yet.

On Marijuana, a Famous Blogger, and One Skeptical Judge

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • On Marijuana, a Famous Blogger, and One Skeptical Judge

    Anyone who made it through a week of law school knows it to be an undeniable fact that not all judicial opinions are made equal. Some are tedious models of opacity. Others, through their authors’ writerly skill, soar off the page.

    But perhaps there’s a third category: those that are short, direct, and written without a surfeit of footnotes or words that sound ripped from the headlines — in the age of Nero. Those, frankly, might be our favorites — the ones that get in there and go, without citing dozens of cases, without block-quoting passages of law-review articles from days of yore.

    Boy do we have a good one for you today, which comes courtesy a federal magistrate judge in Massachusetts, James Collings. Let us set the scene.

    According to the opinion, author and well-known political pundit Andrew Sullivan was busted for marijuana possession on the Cape Cod National Seashore on July 13. Marijuana has been decriminalized in Massachusetts, yes, but because Sullivan, who reportedly owns a house in Provincetown, Mass., was on federal property, he was cited.

    The citation required Sullivan either to show up in court later at a later date or to pay collateral of $125. Sullivan didn’t forfeit the collateral, and a court date was set for Sept. 2.

    However, according to the opinion, on Aug. 26, the U.S. attorney filed a “Dismissal of Complaint” [sic] seeking leave to file a dismissal of the Violation Notice issued to Sullivan because “further prosecution of the violation would not be in the interest of justice.”

    Judge Collings, confused by the dismissal motion, held a hearing anyway, at which Sullivan and an assistant U.S. attorney appeared. According to the opinion, Judge Collings asked about the rationale behind the decision not to prosecute Sullivan given that “persons charged with the same offense on the Cape Cod National Seashore were routinely given violation notices, and if they did not agree to forfeit collateral, were prosecuted by the United States Attorney.”

    In reponse, both Sullivan’s lawyer, Mintz Levin’s Robert Delahunt, and the AUSA said that Sullivan, a British citizen, is applying for immigration status in the U.S., and that had Sullivan paid the $125, it could have had an adverse effect on his immigration case. Explained Collings:
    The Court noted that Mr. Sullivan had been charged with the crime at the time the Violation Notice issued and that even if the Court did grant leave to dismiss the Violation Notice, Mr. Sullivan, if asked by immigration authorities, would have to answer truthfully that he had been charged with a crime involving controlled substances. In these circumstances, the Court asked the attorneys to explain why forfeiting collateral would have any additional adverse effect on his application. Neither attorney could answer the Court’s query except to say that the lawyers they had consulted who practice immigration law said it would.

    It’s pretty good already, but here, it really gets good. Collings asked Delahunt to submit briefings on the question. At that point, the AUSA “asserted, quite correctly, that the United States Attorney has broad discretion as to when to dismiss a criminal charge and that the power of the Court in these circumstances is limited and able to be exercised only in special circumstances.”

    So Collings was stymied. There was nothing he could do to follow up on what was really going on here, if, as he suspected, Sullivan were being given preferential treatment. Still, Collings’s inability to order further action didn’t stop him from writing more:
    In the Court’s view, in seeking leave to dismiss the charge against Mr. Sullivan, the United States Attorney is not being faithful to a cardinal principle of our legal system, i.e., that all persons stand equal before the law and are to be treated equally in a court of justice once judicial processes are invoked. It is quite apparent that Mr. Sullivan is being treated differently from others who have been charged with the same crime in similar circumstances.

    If there were a legitimate reason for the disparate treatment, the Court would view the matter differently. But the United States Attorney refused to allow the Court to inquire into why, in the circumstances of this case where Mr. Sullivan had already been charged with the crime, either a forfeiture of collateral or an adjudication would make a difference in the immigration application.

    But there is more. If, in fact, a determination that Mr. Sullivan had possessed marijuana is a factor which, under immigration law, the immigration authorities are legally charged with taking into account when deciding Mr. Sullivan’s application, why should the United States Attorney make a judgment that, despite the immigration law, the charge should be dismissed because it
    would “adversely affect” his application? If other applicants for a certain immigration status have had their applications “adversely affected” by a conviction or a forfeiture of collateral for possession of marijuana, then why should Mr. Sullivan, who is in the same position, not have to deal with the same consequences?

    In short, the Court sees no legitimate reason why Mr. Sullivan should be treated differently, or why the Violation Notice issued to him should be dismissed. The only reasons given for the dismissal flout the bedrock principle of our legal system that all persons stand equal before the law.

    Interesting, eh? Click here for coverage from the Massachusetts Lawyer Weekly, here for a piece from Gawker.

    We placed calls both to Delahay, Sullivan’s lawyer, and to the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston, but have not heard back. We’ll of course let you know if we do.
    Welcome to our discussion forum!
Previously entered content was automatically saved. Restore or Discard.
Smile :) Stick Out Tongue :p Wink ;) Mad :mad: Big Grin :D Frown :( Embarrassment :o Confused :confused: Roll Eyes (Sarcastic) :rolleyes: Cool :cool: EEK! :eek:

the color of milk is... (write the answer twice with an "@" between the words)

widgetinstance 213 (Related Topics) skipped due to lack of content & hide_module_if_empty option.