A Federal Case?

A Federal Case?

A Federal Case?

Slate's blog on legal issues.
April 18 2008 3:53 PM

A Federal Case?

I think Judge Gertner's right -- there are some things which flatly shouldn't be a federal case. 

I'm reminded here of the so-called "felon in possession" cases I saw while working as an extern in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.  Under federal criminal law, it's a crime for a previously-convicted felon to possess a gun which has moved in interstate commerce (i.e. any gun). The cases I watched came as part of a massive Justice Department initiative called " Project Safe Neighborhoods " which aimed to reduce gun-related crime in America through various means, including the federal prosecution of persons arrested with a gun who had a prior felony conviction.  Many were initially arrested by local law enforcement; some were even tried first in state corut.  However, they eventually made it into federal court because the feds wanted to take advantage of stiffer federal sentencing laws, more prosecutorial resources at the federal level, and the comparitive advantage of the federal court jury pool versus that in Los Angeles County. 

Advertisement

The strategy has worked.  PSN has locked up a lot of gun-carrying felons for a very long time.  In general, I applaud that outcome, because I want streets that are free of gun violence too.  But, I agree with Judge Gertner that we should be concerned about the larger implications here, especially the stark differences between the federal and state criminal systems which create the incentive to make a federal case out of everything.