Oral argument before a Second Circuit panel was held yesterday on the Lynne Stewart appeal. The government argued that the sentence imposed by Judge John Koeltl, 28 months rather than the 30 years that the government sought, constituted an “abuse of discretion,” according to this Daily News story.
“Ooh, shocking,” you say? Fair enough. What else would you expect the government to argue?
But what about the panel? Now this is where it gets interesting. As quoted in the Newsday story;
Judge John Walker seemed to agree, questioning the message Koeltl sent with the sentence.
“There’s a serious aspect to this case _ the role of lawyers sworn to uphold codes of conduct and ethics and to behave in a particular way,” he said.
He said Koeltl failed to adequately consider the factors he was supposed to address as he explained the sentence.
“We don’t want totally freewheeling judges just to make decisions that they choose,” he said.
Wait a sec. Is Judge Walker (President Bush’s cousin) calling Judge Koeltl a “totally freewheeling judge?” Those are fighting words in the rarified world of the judiciary. What a smack he just gave his district court colleague.
But then, Judge Guido Calabresi wasn’t having any of that freewheeling talk.
Koeltl appeared to have given the case considerable thought and reached a sentence he thought was fair.
“I find the work Judge Koeltl did admirable to a degree that is amazing,” Calabresi said. “There’s no case quite like this one. This case is a very different case.”
So the battle lines are drawn, at least as far as Judge Koeltl is concerned. And what of the third member of the panel, Judge Robert Sack? He said nary a word, leaving us with a Second Circuit cliffhanger.