Judge Burns US Attorneys Using Excel Chart

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

Here’s something kind of awesome. Wonkblog’s Christopher Ingraham points us to a district court opinion that justifies its conclusion with a chart drawn in Excel:

Is this common? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a chart in a judicial opinion before, but then, I don’t read a whole lot of judicial opinions. In any case, if this is a trend, I heartily approve.

In case you’re wondering, Judge Joseph Goodwin used this chart to demonstrate that US attorneys are lazy bastards who make plea deals for everything and barely ever do the work of actually bringing someone to trial: “In FY 1973, each federal prosecutor handled over eight criminal trials on average. By FY 2016, the average number of criminal trials handled by each federal prosecutor plummeted to 0.29 trials.”

For that reason, he rejected a plea deal in the case at hand. US attorneys are hardly overworked, he said, so let’s have a trial:

The law is the law, and I am satisfied that enforcing the law through public adjudications focuses attention on the heroin and opioid crisis….A jury trial tells a story….Moreover, the attendant media attention that a jury trial occasions communicates to the community that such conduct is unlawful and that the law is upheld and enforced.

….The secrecy surrounding plea bargains in heroin and opioid cases frequently undermines respect for the law and deterrence of crime. The bright light of the jury trial deters crime, enhances respect for the law, educates the public, and reinforces their sense of safety much more than a contract entered into in the shadows of a private meeting in the prosecutor’s office.

For the reasons stated, I REJECT the plea agreement.

Does this make sense? Will it be upheld if it’s appealed? Beats me. But I love the chart. Good job, judge.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate