Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Donald Sterling, Vladimir Putin, Federal Judges & Federal Inmates

From the messy desk of Paul Levine...

What do Donald Sterling and Vladimir Putin have in common?

Well, first both are megalomaniacs...to say nothing of being international sex symbols.
Sterling, at rest, watches his Los Angeles Clippers play.

Putin displays his qualifications to rule Russia, or perhaps appear in Playgirl magazine.  (Actually, I have no idea if there is still a Playgirl.  Somebody call Burt Reynolds).

Both Sterling and Putin are filthy rich.  Sterling has $1.9 billion in net worth.  U.S. intelligence agencies estimate Putin's hidden wealth in various Russian energy companies, among others, to be between $40 and $70 billion.  (How do you say "corruption" in Russian?)

Finally, both men must be curbed: Sterling for his blatant racism, Putin for his dangerous expansionism.

Sanctioning Donald Sterling and Vladimir Putin

Apparently, the NBA Constitution does not directly allow the league to force Sterling to divest himself of the Los Angeles Clippers. Impose sanctions so severe that Sterling is forced to sell.  Start with the forfeiture of all television revenue, a ban on signing all free agents, and a loss of all draft choices until ownership changes.  Then encourage a minority group, perhaps led by Magic Johnson, to purchase the franchise.

Sure, there will be litigation. So what!  The NBA can afford the legal fees.  Do something big, NBA Commissioner Silver.

Now, onto Putin. USA sanctions against rogue nation Russia should be so punishing as to force Putin to remove his hotels from Boardwalk, i.e., Crimea, and go home to play.  While it will require EU help, we could crush the Russian economy.  Yesterday, the USA announced additional sanctions involving some companies and persons close to Putin.

Go farther!  Or further, as the case  may be.  Take Russian banks out of the international loop.  Destroy the Russian stock market.  Isolate Putin. Make the Russian people, currently all atwitter about his strength, realize he's a pariah.

Federal Judges Ignore Conflict of Interest Laws

In law school ethics, you learn that a judge cannot sit on a case involving a company in which he or she owns stock.  But Judge James Hill, of the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (that's one step below the Supreme Court) ruled in favor of Johnson & Johnson, despite having a six-figure stake in the company.

In all, a new report reveals that more than a dozen federal appeals court judges violated conflict-on-interest laws over the past three years!  For shame!

Bravo to Obama on Sentence Reductions

In his first term, President Obama only commuted the sentence of ONE federal inmate.  Now, the government is poised to release hundreds, or even thousands of non-violent drug offenders (and others) who received excessive punishments under idiotic sentencing guidelines, some of which have been repealed.

Here are some details, from the blog of Florida Super Lawyer Marcia Silvers:  
There is no automatic right to early release.  However, under new Justice Department guidelines announced earlier this week, commutation of sentence will be favored for federal inmates who:
  • are serving a sentence that, if imposed today, would be substantially shorter;
  • have a non-violent history with no significant ties to organized crime, gangs or cartels;
  • have served at least 10 years;
  • have no significant prior convictions;
  • and have demonstrated good conduct.
A petition for clemency will not necessarily be denied if the inmate fails to meet all the criteria. For example, someone who has served less than 10 years might still have an excellent chance if he or she fulfills the other criteria.  
Contrast this with earlier times. Remember those eight inmates whose sentences President Obama commuted last December.  In his previous five years in office, he had commuted only one other sentence. Overall, since becoming President, he has granted only nine out of 10,490 commutation of sentence petitions.  That is about to change in a big way.
The complete blog post can be found here: "Commutation of Sentence: The Window Opens,"  Full disclosure under federal conflict-of-interest laws.  Marcia Silvers is my wife.

Paul Levine



  1. It was recently disclosed that Ronald Rodgers, the current pardon attorney who advises the White House on these matters, has been blocking clemency efforts. He left out critical information about convict Clarence Aaron’s application and failed to disclose that the judge and the prosecutor had suggested clemency for Aaron. Rodgers has just resigned, under pressure, I hope.


  2. Just read Marcia's blog in which she dishes on Rodgers and his dastardly deeds. Nice work!

  3. For Sterling a ban for life is about 16 months.
    Jim B

  4. Funny, Jim Born. Yes, Patty, we shouldn't have a Pardon Attorney who sees his job as BLOCKING pardons.