Author Archives: Mario Machado

Machado: Leave Judge Ketanji Brown-Jackson Alone

Senator Josh Hawley has a beef with Judge Kentanji Brown-Jackson’s prior experience when it comes to defendants convicted of child pornography, ranging from her time in law school to working as a federal appellate defender,* to her time as a District Judge and her work with the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

For starters, as far as I know, there has only been one bona fide criminal defense lawyer on SCOTUS, and that was the Honorable Thurgood Marshall.** The fact is that trench lawyers rarely make it to the appellate circuit level, let alone SCOTUS. Continue reading

Debate: Bah, Humbug, “Die Hard” Ain’t No Christmas Movie

Ed. Note: Who doesn’t fight with loved ones at some point during the holidays? Fault Lines alumni Mario Machado and Chris Seaton seem to love arguing with each other, so they put a debate topic on Twitter, and with over sixty percent of the vote, SJ readers chose “Resolved: Die Hard is a Christmas Movie” as the SJ Holiday Debate topic. Chris will argue the affirmative, Mario the negative. Below is Mario’s argument.

Eight minutes into the Die Hard celluloid and inside a limo, John McClane asks his driver why he’s not playing “Christmas music.” McClane is on to something very early, if only by accident, because this movie isn’t about Christmas. This movie is about an overzealous NY cop, played by Bruce Willis, who managed to fool enough people to demand – and pay for – a series of potboilers that would make Baby Jesus hide his face and weep. Continue reading

Machado: Sentencing Commission To Judge Kane: We Got Nothing

For decades, some defense lawyers have been screaming into the void about how the economic loss guidelines for federal sentencing are out of whack, arbitrary, and many times just plain draconian. I’m lucky enough to have been doing it for about 10 years, and whenever a sentencing hearing is around the corner, I scavenge for more ammo to convince Judges to look past the nonsense that’s in section 2B1.1.

Some of the best weapons, though, come not from the defense’s argument, but from Judges who have found these numbers to be the equivalent of black box science. It’s as if the defense is telling the sentencing Judge, “Your Honor, it’s not just your not-so-humble servant that says that, but some of your brethren have also said it!” Implied in that message is something like, “Your colleagues took the plunge and called BS on these things, and now this Court can too!” Continue reading

Debate: This Divided Country Shall Fall

Ed. Note: Another debate has broken out at SJ! Fault Lines alumni Mario Machado and Christopher Seaton are ready to slug it out to the following question: “Resolved: It is in the best interests of the American public to pursue a “national divorce.” Chris will take the affirmative while Mario argues the negative. Mario’s argument follows, and you can read Chris’ here.

The last time this Honorable nation proposed a divorce among states and took it seriously, it became the most sanguinary conflict this young country had ever seen. Ironically, when some people sought to form a permanent divide between “red” and “blue” states, the end result was a more resilient union that when fought brought together, it was able to repel all tyrannical threats from abroad. A stubborn railroad lawyer kept his oath to preserve and protect and defend the Union, despite all of his its paltry and envious foes. Continue reading

Machado: ICE to Local DA, Bite Me

Alcedis Ortiz had been accused of sexually assaulting* a 12-year-old girl, and he was scheduled to stand trial in Miami.  Ortiz is a Colombian national without legal permanent residence in the U.S., and without any other authorization to remain in the country, he was fair game for ICE.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office was in charge of his prosecution, and if a one-word verdict came back, it was also tasked with convincing a Judge to send Ortiz to a Florida prison for a very long time.  For ICE, Ortiz was a man with no legal status who was charged with a serious crime, and whose asylum application had been denied by an Immigration Judge at the Krome Processing Center (a.k.a. Miami’s Immigration jail/court, a one-stop shop).  He was facing criminal charges in Miami’s state court while simultaneously seeking asylum in an Immigration Court. Continue reading

Machado: DOJ’s Long Arm Reaches For Maduro

The news hit Miami and its Latino diaspora like a breath of fresh justice: Venezuelan President* Nicolas Maduro and other government officials have been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice. The charges range from narco-terrorism conspiracy to money laundering, and, in short, they’re accused of conspiring to ship tons of Bolivian marching powder to the U.S., where apparently the demand has always been high for that kind of stuff.  If they’re ever tried before a jury of their peers, chances are they will never get to eat a pabellon again.

There’s a $15 million bounty on Maduro’s head, and an additional $10 million for each of his confederates. The DEA was offering only $5 million for El Chapo, so apparently they really mean business, and perhaps they know a lot that we plebs don’t (e.g., Venezuelan Generals finally running out of cash for the gumars and they can also see the writing on the wall).** At minimum, when an indictment of this magnitude comes down, it means that at least a lot of people have been singing for a while. Continue reading

Machado: Get Local Judges Out of Adoption of Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors

Upon arriving at the border, either alone or with their parents, children from abroad are placed in the care of the Office of Refugee Settlement. Until June 20 of this year, those minors who arrived with their parents were still marked by the government as “unaccompanied” because of the administration’s policy of separation at the border. Thus, the parents’ cases were put on a separate track, leaving the children. some as young as 2, alone as they went through the immigration system.

Of course, as many of the parents were deported – very few have a chance in hell without an attorney that they’re not entitled to – many kids were left behind. Separation at the docket is more accurate than separation at the border. What could compound this problem? State judges granting parental rights to foster parents stateside while not having a damn clue what’s going on with the biological ones:

Alexa’s case began in November 2015 under the Obama administration, years before Trump’s family-separation policy rolled out. Her 15-month separation from her mother exposes the fragile legal standing of children under the care of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement and a flawed, piecemeal system that can change the course of a child’s life. Continue reading

Machado: 10th Circuit Upholds Judge Kane’s Stripping Kefelegne Worku Of Citizenship

Two spoiler alerts: (i) this post will be about me playing advocatus diaboli on behalf of a purported real-life devil from Eithiopia whose trial and sentence was held before Senior U.S. District Judge John L. Kane, Jr. with whom I and others had the honor and privilege of writing at our beloved Fault Lines; and (ii) there could be a fortuitous ending for Worku once he’s turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation after he completes his sentence, in that he has a chance of remaining in the U.S. despite being convicted in federal court.

The Denver Post reported on Worku’s last ditch effort before the 10th Circuit of Appeals:

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has dismissed an appeal by a 62-year-old man who claims his false identification as an Ethiopian prison guard who killed and tortured dozens of people led to an unfair sentencing on an unrelated U.S. immigration fraud count. Continue reading

Debate: PC, At Best Inauthentic Babble, At Worst Dangerous Obfuscation

Ed. Note: After two prominent intellectuals, a New York Times reporter and an award winning British media personality failed to debate the question ,“Be it Resolved: What You Call Political Correctness, I Call Progress,” former Fault Lines contributors Mario Machado and Chris Seaton attempted to succeed where four others failed. Bellow Mario’s argument.

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. 

–George Orwell, Animal Farm (Original Preface)

Let’s begin with stating the obvious: for some many of my fellow primates, there are some words that are just too much to bear. These words need to be diluted so that the chance of someone being hurt or “offended” becomes impossible.

Yes, these folks are fine with words either being banned outright or replaced with more antiseptic ones, at the expense of reason and the English language.  For those who have respect for language (especially those who make a living off of it, along with the First Amendment), and who don’t require they be treated like backward children, that state of affairs is something that must be addressed and corrected.  The stakes are high, amigos.

Those on the other side, who with a straight hysterical face will tell you that “words are violence,” will claim that no measure is too stiff, no punishment too severe so long as no feelings are hurt and everyone’s sensitivities remain one-hundred-percent intact.  Notice how another cherished concept of civilization – a sense of nuance and proportion – has now been thrown overboard as a result of this “movement”?

It’s not so bad that Hollywood, in part because of Trump Derangement Syndrome, has become a beacon for bullying gangs that will excoriate anyone that goes off the politically-correct script (no pun). Make one remark off-the-cuff that may offend one member of the tribe for one second, and it is off-with-your-fucking-head, amigos.  No matter how perfect or swift the contrition by the offender, their careers will go up in smoke.

Speaking of Trump, a lot of this censoring is done in the name of “things have never been so nasty, so uncivil.” Really? During the 1800 presidential campaign, John Adams referred to that fellow from Monticello, another founding father, as “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” In 1828, Andrew Jackson’s opponent called him a murderer, an adulterer, and a pimp.  So the current political climate of naughty words does not justify these cries for civility.

Raising the sights a bit, let’s talk about academia.  A majority of students think that words are violence. One would think that a basic academic (pardon the expression) explanation would put such a foolish position to rest: “Junior, violence is blunt force that can cause physical injury. By definition, words can’t do that.” But you may get called a white supremacist or a Nazi before Junior’s rusted brain wheels start spinning.

But it gets worse, much, much worse.  The professors and the administrators – yes! those who are supposed to be in charge – have become the proverbial hostages to the students. They’re terrified of putting these brats in place, lest they be reported and lose their jobs. This is in part because they know their spineless colleagues will not come to their defense.

So what are we left with at these universities? Trigger warnings, cry-ins, de-platforming of speakers, riots. The last two usually occur when the really bad speakers come to town.  Nothing says “I’m a smart, strident, dependable person who deserves a paycheck” like breaking a Starbucks window with a sledge hammer because someone was uttering politically incorrect stuff at an event where attendance was not compulsory.  These are the professionals of our future who will enter the workforce en masse without calloused sensitivities, all because of the campaign for political-correctness-for-all.

What happens when these political-correctness warriors get off the academic teat of appeasement and are lucky enough to get a job? What will they do when their boss is a ball-buster, who also happens to have the temerity to use “incorrect” gender pronouns? Will they curl up into a ball, toughen up, or simply report it to the higher-ups in the hopes of having a competent leader thrown out?

With regards to the last question, which involves someone snitching out another for using language that’s forbidden by the tribe, the American Bar Association has joined the party.  ABA’s Model Rule 4.8(g) is full of vague, meaningless tripe that forbids lawyers to:

engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law

Let’s say you finally found the right lawyer who puts you first, and is in the best position to get you out of a serious jam. This rule can be used to take his license, should anyone perceive he said something considered “harassment,” and perhaps that leaves you with lawyers who will cower should a prosecutor threaten with putting you in a cage if she doesn’t capitulate.  There you have it ladies and gentlemen, how far the termites have spread.

I will come full circle, and finish with our beloved language, and how political correctness has been used to trivialize things that cause real pain and suffering.  Freaking out because you’re facing a lifetime of banishment from this country and don’t have the coin to pay for your defense? Well, you’re not entitled to a lawyer, because the deportation process is “administrative” and not punitive. In an immigration jail and hate the conditions? How bad can it possibly be, buttercup? They’re not jails, but rather “service processing” and “transitional” centers.

You’re in prison awaiting trial, and you got thrown in a filthy hole?  Calm down, drama queen. It’s not a hole, but a “secure housing unit,” or SHU.  Facing life in prison, so you want your lawyer to pulverize the government’s parade of rats? Understandable, but make sure he only addresses him as “cooperating witness” during cross and closing argument.  Is all this progress? Very far from it.

Surprise! John Oliver’s Take on Immigration Court Needs Work

I’ve never found John Oliver to be funny or particularly enlightening, and his recent low-rent attack on Dustin Hoffman reeked of self-righteousness and ignorance about the criminal justice system. But there is a clip from his show about Immigration Courts that merits discussion.

Oliver, and the people (some of whom are former Immigration Judges) in his clip, make the following points about Immigration Court, in the following order:

  • Immigration Courts in essence handle “death penalty cases” in a traffic court setting;
  • There is a gargantuan backlog of cases, with some courts taking up to 5 years to process cases. This is sometimes detrimental to defendants respondents

Continue reading