Constant's pations

If it's more than 30 minutes old, it's not news. It's a blog.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Two Standards: One for government, another for the public

How mandatory sentencing guidelines are not uniformly applied.

Prosecutors have alot of power. They can choose whether to bring charges or not.

If we look at the sentencing guidelines, the problem isn't that the sentences are mandatory; but that the prosecutors are not uniformly investigating crimes and prosecuting the same offenses with the same vigor.

More telling is the inconsistent application of the guidlines. Prosecutors create great pressure to impose the guidelines on "small time crimes," but there is little evidence to suggest that the white collar crimes are pursued wtih the same vigor.

In short, drug users have a relatively low threshold for accountabilty; while a large amount of evidnece and misconduct needs to occur before white collar crime or government malfeasance is aggressively prosecuted.

We shall not discuss the difference in probation, nor the tendendy of judges today to impose probation for "small time drug crimes" while many years ago a theft of a few shillings might result in someone being banished to the new world for decades.

Some might suggest that things should not always be manadatory. The problem with this thinking involves prosecutors who selectively ignore white collar crime [because it is difficult to prove], and go after the small tiem criminal [because it is easier].

This creates the disparity between whether the sentencing guidelines are fair: Why are they applied with vigor to drug users; while more loosely when applied to government malfeasance?

The perception is that white collar crimes and government officials face more leniency, and a lower probabiltiy of having their misconduct sanctioned that petit drug uses. Moreover, there is the perception that white collar criminals and government workers can egnage in miscondcut to a greater degree with a lower prosect of facing any investigaiton or consequences.

The issue boils down to: Why are greater levels of investigative resources freely available to target drug users, but the barrier to "going after someone in the white collar world or the government sector" is much higher?

WHy are the auditors who are required to take information to support performance audits not taking information that might otherwise be used to target government employees for integrity testing?

Rather than simply review the facts and balance the word of the public against the illusory fantasy story of the government worker, why not simply take the inforation at face value, and use it as a basis to conduct further tests and evaluation of the so-accused government employee or white collar criminal?

It is disturbing that the barrier to getting information into the system is relatively high when it invoves accuasions of government corruption; but the threshold for action for petit crimes is relativley low when it comes to petit crimes. WHy are government workers able to shield thesemvelves, while the drug pushers seem to have multitudes of officers in an undercover capacity?

If there was truly consistency between the white collar world-government secotr on wone hand and the blue collar non-government secotor on the other, we'd have the sentencing guidlines applied with vigor to both; and in those situations where the guildeines were not applicable "for whatever reason" to white collar crime those standards would also not applie to aall classes, not simply applicable to the blue collar, but not the white collar.

The sentencing guideline problem is not just about the standards. It's an inconsistency whether white collar-government crimes are investigated; and why the resouces to investigate drug crimes are apparently higher.

There is no merit to suggest the sentencing guidelines for "other" white collar crimes is high. If we look to the securiteis laws, these typically settle. Martha Stewaart wasn't even convicted for securiteis laws violations, but for obstructing justice. Plus, the SEC has a very high threshold to bring prosecutions; and the civl cases are typically settled out of court. Tere's no merit to the argument that the sentencing guildelines are stiffer; to be credible, they need to be backed up by credible convictinos. That the SEC settles out of court, and typically imposes consent decreees to "cease and desist" and "refrain from future violations" isn't punishment, but merely reminding one class while the other class gets no reminder.

Whether mandatory sentencing is applied or not should be based on the conduct, not he status. By failing to demonstrate that the white collar criminals and government corruption is equally objectionale through consequences means that there is the perception that white collar crime gets a pass, but the mandatory sentencing laws are unfairly and arbitarily applied to blue collar workers.

One flaw with the approach is to beleive that "all mandatory things" are bad. This is flawed. Some "mandatory" things are good: Mandatory investigation of threats against heads of state. What is problematic is when the innocent behavior is construed to be a "threat" and investigated regardless the absurdity; while th emore egrebious conduct by leadership in positions of public trust [that depend on their word and intergrity as the foundatino for their status and ability to do their job] gets a pass.

Those proposing mandatory sentences ask that we believe the judges are better able to exercise their discretion. Indeed, it is the "discretion" of judges that choose t impose light sentences that generated the requirement for mandatory sentences; and the failure to investigate and prosecute white collar crime should not be used as the basis to say, "Because we haven't enforced laws against public corruptoin, we should not start doing so now." Again, why is there so much energy on investigating and enforceing one class of crimminal, but not the same vigor to investigate and prosecute government corruption remains a mystery.

Judges are not reliable when given discretion: They fail to impose consequences on "high profile figures" and use the "public figure status" as the excuse to say, "they've suffered enough." IN pratcies it is ~because~ they are "high profile" was th ereason the prosecutor decided to go after them--if they prosecuted the "high profile cimrinal" this would serve as a warning to others. But when the judges impose meaningless sanctions, or the charges are reduced "because they've suffered," then the rest of the country gets the message, "the rules mean nothing." This does much to raise questions about the credibility of the judicial system, and raises great doubts about whether the system truly is about laws.

When the nation begines to enforce and apply the sentencing guideliness equally across all classes, we might then be a nation of laws. Rather than "get rid of the manadatory sentences" let's make sure those mandatory sentences are applied with vigor to white collar criminals, not simply explained away using standards and excuses that "do not apply" to blue collar crimmials.

Any reason given for "why the sentencing guidelines should not apply to white collar-government workers" should be also applied to "why the guideliness should not apply to others; at teh same time, "all argumens given to justify why blue collar workes should face the sentencing guildines" should also be applied with the same vigor to white collar and government workers who engage in malfeasance, misconduct, or failures to supervise. It is absurd that a legacy of misconduct and abuse is inadequately remedied by management; and that the sentencing guildeines are not enforced, and that the public must rely on private civil actions to remedy public wrongs. The sentencing guildeines need to be revamped so that public officials who fail to do their job are swiftly prosecuted. The deterrent value would be high; if there is "no prosect of deterrence of white colalr crime," then why is the "no posibility of deterrence" not also applied to the drug laws?

It is interesting that we have a "hait trigger threshold" when it comes to petit crimes; but not the same swift movement when it comes to white collar crimes. No, the damage must be high, the abuses repeated, and the impact and carnage widespread before anyone will lift a finger. Many excuses to do nothing; no wonder the misconduct occus. Again, we're not simply here to prosecute, but to ensure that the conduct [abuse, inaction, poor government responsinvess] is remedied. The higher the barrier to prosecution and greater the reluctance to apply mandadory sentences to government and white collar criminals sends a signal that one class is subject to a higher standard that others. Getting a goernment job does not insulate one from prosecution; rather, the standards should be uniformly enforced.

The issues of arbitrariness and inconstency surface when one class is subject to greater scrutiny; and other classes of crims are deemed "not appropriate" to enforce. What about equial protection under the 14th Amendment: The laws should be applied to all, not simply out of convenience or popularity.

Why aren't mandatory sentencies applied with equial vigor to all crimes?

In those cases where the sentencin guidelines are not enforced, why do we not have private action to bring action against those who are committing crimes, but the prosecturs choose to take no action? Again, this is not to say that private citizens should become criminal prosecutors; rather this is to suggest that in those cases where the sentencing guildeiness are not enforced or cases are not investigated or crimes are not prosecuted, then the public [where the state fails] should be able to bring a cause of action. It is unfortunate that the public has to become "the victim" before they have "an interst"; at that point the prosecutor works on behalf of the ~state~, not the victim. Yet, who has the most interest in seeing justice done? Not those who failt to investiatate, or choose not to prosecute; rather, the public should be able to step in when the prosecutors are failing to aggressively push with ~equal~ vigor both white collar-government cases and blue collar.

Issue: Inconsistent application of the idea of "mandatory". Government is quick to start "alarm" to justify questioning people; but slow to move against their own in government. Fast movement against the blue collar; slow movement against the white collar. How interesting.

To believe "those in power will come after you" if you stand up to them misses the point. The government needs to explain "why there is a double standard" and what ~their~ solution is to this problem. They have no plan. Government neees to explain why we should beeliev this plan, and for them to explain it.

Again, the "hypothetical fuutre risk of adverse actdion by the government in exchange for being stood up to" is more of the "if you do something that is right today, you face the risk of being punished today." Again, it's more of the "theat of hypothetical future risk to dissuade people from taking action today." If people want to live in a place like that, you move to Iraq.

What's more absurd is that a systemic culture of fraud has to be "proven" to likely to continue to cause harm, before an injunction can be issued. Should we not simply set the standard, and require people to meet that standard; and easily tell them to stop falling short of what they are clearly required to do?

Why must the public "that hires these government workers to work" be forced to prove that "an unremedied problem today is likely to cause future problems" before we can issue an order to say, "Stop doing what you're not supposed to do; or start doing something that you are required to do." WHy do we need to show "damages" when the real goal is simply to get the government to do what it advertises to do; it is absurd that the public be asked to "show damages" when the real burden of proof belongs on government to show "why we should beleive their word".

There are sanctions on government for failing to comply with procecures: Evidence is not admitted; but in cases where "the government has not brought a case," there should be a penalty on the government for engaging in similar abusive conduct that would otherwise have evidence dismissed.

MCNABB v. U.S., 318 U.S. 332: They subjected the accused to the pressures of a procedure which is wholly incompatible with the vitalbut very restricted duties of the investigating andarresting officers of the Government and which tends to undermine the integrity of the criminal proceeding.Congress has explicitly commanded that ‘It shall be the duty of the marshal, his deputy, or other officer,who may arrest a person charged with any crime oroffense ... [Emphasis added]