Don’t attack judges for showing leniency
In a recent editorial, provocatively titled “The thief that got away,” The News harshly criticized federal Judge Richard Arcara for sentencing the former head of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority to probation.
In doing so, The News gave yet another example of an all too prevalent willingness in our society, exemplified at the highest level of our government, to attack judges.
The editorial correctly recognized that federal sentencing guidelines called for the defendant to receive a sentence of 6 to 12 months. Although begrudgingly acknowledging that a federal judge has discretion to sentence outside the guidelines, the editorial nonetheless berated Arcara for doing so, suggesting that he was cavalierly swayed by “friends in high places” who submitted letters in support of the defendant.
There is nothing improper in submitting letters from friends, family and community leaders urging a judge to show leniency. Conscientious defense attorneys frequently do so. To criticize Arcara for seriously taking into consideration the views about the defendant expressed by respected prominent citizens – including a former congressman, university president and police chief – suggests that Arcara should have ignored these letters. Is that what you would want from a judge sentencing you?
The editorial states that the defendant unfairly benefited by having “connections” with “influential people.” Should she have been stripped of her right to submit letters to the judge because she was fortunate enough to know – and to have favorably impressed – such people?
The editorial also gave no context regarding Arcara‘s sentencing history. He has been on the bench for nearly three decades. He is hardly known as a judicial pushover on sentencing. As a former U.S. attorney and Erie County district attorney, he certainly understands the prosecutorial point of view.
Sentencing a citizen is a daunting judicial responsibility. The pressure in this country to send ever more people to jail is palpable. When a judge thoughtfully considers what respected citizens have to say, and determines to exercise leniency and mercy, he does not merit criticism.
Michael A. Brady, Esq.
Hagerty & Brady