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Jewish World Review / March 13, 1998 / 15 Adar, 5758

Mona Charen

Mona Charen

Clinton's idea of a fine judge

IN HIS STATE of the Union address last January, President Clinton called upon the Senate to "vote on the highly qualified nominees before you -- up or down."

Here is one example of a judge the president considers to be "highly qualified."

Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson is a judge in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia, Penn. The scales president has nominated her to serve as federal judge (a lifetime appointment) for the Eastern district of Pennsylvania.

The streets of Philadelphia are a good deal more dangerous than they would otherwise be thanks to the tenure of Massiah-Jackson. Hers is a record of lenient sentencing, lack of judicial temperament, bias against law enforcement and anti-white racism. Her nomination is opposed by the attorney general of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia and National Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of Police Organizations, and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.

In one notorious incident, denied by Massiah-Jackson until a transcript was produced, the judge told defendants at a trial to "take a good look at the faces" of undercover police officers who were testifying against them and to "be careful out there." Both officers told the Senate Judiciary Committee that they felt the judge was "outing" them deliberately and placing their lives in danger.

The judge has also acknowledged using profanity once or twice from the bench (against prosecutors) and has promised never to do so again. Her critics say that she frequently swears at lawyers.

At both of her judiciary committee hearings, Massiah-Jackson displayed a positively Clintonian lack of recall about specific cases, even when transcripts were produced to refresh her recollection. She was asked, for example, whether her sentences had ever been reversed as too lenient. She said no.

But, in fact, as Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) noted in his floor statement about the nomination, her sentences were in fact reversed in at least two cases, Commonwealth vs. Easterling and Commonwealth vs. Williams.

In the Easterling case, the defendant pled guilty to burglary and criminal conspiracy. Despite nine prior adult property convictions and two burglary convictions, Easterling was sentenced to only 11 to 23 months in prison (three years less than the standard guidelines).

In the Williams case, the defendant pled guilty to robbery and possession of an instrument of a crime. He had snatched a woman's purse and deeply slashed her with a razor blade. Williams too had a prior criminal record, yet Massiah-Jackson sentenced him to only 11 to 23 months and instantly paroled him.

Massiah-Jackson has used all of her discretionary power to reduce sentences for career criminals. She has excluded evidence, downgraded charges, delayed trials and twisted the clear meaning of statutes. In two cases, Massiah-Jackson refused to rule that abdominal gunshot wounds (necessitating colostomies) constituted "serious injury."

Between 1988 and 1989, the judge presided over 66 bench trials of defendants accused of aggravated assault. In 14 cases, the judge found the defendants not guilty of the most serious charge. In 37 cases, she found the defendants not guilty of any charge. She once counseled a defendant to "ask his friends in jail" whether she would do right by him at a bench trial.

It isn't that Massiah-Jackson is unfeeling. She cried when a jury returned a guilty verdict against a defendant who had raped a 10-year-old child. "It's not that I think the rape didn't occur," she explained. "But five years is a lot of time." After serving his sentence, the defendant was freed and raped a 9-year-old.

In another case involving a child victim, a 13-year-old boy was raped and had his face slashed with a box cutter. Two witnesses identified the defendant crawling out of the bushes from which the naked victim had emerged. He was apprehended by police with the box cutter and a bloody rag. Massiah-Jackson ruled that the police lacked probable cause to arrest the man and suppressed the box cutter, the rag and other evidence as fruits of an illegal arrest.

In one case, the judge did bring herself to impose a harsh sentence, explaining that among other aggravating factors, the defendant was a "Caucasian."

Go Clinton.


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©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.