March 3, 2011
Pepper v. United States Admissibility Of Post-sentence Rehabilitation
Issue: Whether, upon remand, evidence of post-sentence rehabilitation can be used by the District Court to mitigate a sentence?
Originally charged with drug crimes, Mr. Pepper put himself through drug treatment and remained sober prior to the original sentencing. Based upon the mitigating factors, the original sentencing court sentenced Mr. Pepper to 24 months in prison, some 75% below the guidelines. The Government appealed, the Court of Appeals reversed, remanded, and held the District Court did not make sufficient findings to justify its sentence. Upon remand, the District Court made particularized findings, and imposed the same 24-month prison sentence. Petulant Government Prosecutors again appealed, and again the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court. However, upon remand, the case was re-assigned to another judge who gladly sentenced Mr. Pepper to a much harsher sentence. Further, the District Court flat out refused to hear any mitigating rehabilitation evidence that occurred after Mr. Pepper's original sentencing. The Court of Appeals affirmed the sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the sentence and held that a sentencing court may take into account the post-sentencing rehabilitation to mitigate Mr. Pepper's sentence. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court held that the District Court does not need to re-impose the original 24-month sentence.
Snyder v. Phelps, First Amendment / Defenses
Good news: Both the conservatives and moderates (no liberals exist on this court) agree on an expansive reading of the First Amendment. The Court held that the First Amendment protects protests at military funerals. Thus, the Court reversed a 5 million dollar award to the Snyders, and held that the Church, Phelps and others could not be prohibited from protesting at such funerals. Justice Roberts wrote the opinion in which everyone but Alito joined.
Justice Alito, proclaiming his newfound talent for empathy (after all it was easy for him - white, male, soldier), complains about the "verbal assaults" lodged at the Snyders (odd, given that Alito supports First Amendment rights when the speaker insults African-American, Hispanics, Gays or some other minority see Saxe v. State College (here: http://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F3/240/240.F3d.200.99-4081.html ) ).
Justice Breyer in his namby-pamby-hand-wringing way, needed to say that sometimes words are just too mean, and that States can, in certain circumstances, prohibit speech that is just meany-weenie.
Bad news: right result, but douche bag extrordinaire Fred Phelps, the "pastor" of the Westboro Baptist Church was the benefactee of this decision – these be the clowns who protest funerals of soldiers and hold up signs at such funerals that read "God Hates Fags." Interesting Wikipedia note on Phelps: Democrat, former Civil Rights Activist, and disbarred lawyer.