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Adelman stays ahead of the game

By: David Ziemer, [email protected]//February 16, 2011//

Adelman stays ahead of the game

By: David Ziemer, [email protected]//February 16, 2011//

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Hon. Lynn S. Adelman – U.S. District Court

Photo by Kevin Harnack

Judge Lynn S. Adelman wants to make one thing clear.

“‘Advisory’ means advisory,” says Adelman, from the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

Adelman is referring, of course, to the federal sentencing guidelines, made advisory only after the U.S.

Supreme Court in U.S. v. Booker (2005), held that mandatory guidelines violated the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial.

Adelman was one of the first district court judges to weigh in on what Booker meant for federal sentencing practices, and has consistently issued controversial opinions asserting that district courts have broad discretion at sentencing in the wake of Booker.

Time and again, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld those broad assertions of discretion when the issues finally reached it.

But Judge Adelman has been on the cutting edge of the law since long before he joined the Eastern District of Wisconsin in 1997, and certainly, long before the landmark Booker opinion.

After practicing in New York for several years after graduation, Adelman returned to his native Wisconsin in 1972, and had a general practice with his wife, Betty, formerly an assistant United States attorney, until his appointment to the district court.

Four times during his years as a practicing attorney, Adelman filed original actions in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and prevailed in three. In one, the court held that it was unconstitutional for circuit courts to set defendants’ bail based on schedules that include constitutionally impermissible criteria.

In another, the court struck down the then-governor’s expansive use of the line-item veto. And in the third, the court struck down legislation which denied appointed counsel to indigent parents facing termination of their parental rights. Adelman represented not just the parents in that case, but the circuit court judges in children’s court, as well.

And in a criminal case, he represented a defendant given a sentence enhancement based on a finding that his crime was motivated by the race of the victim. Although Adelman successfully argued that the law violated the First Amendment in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, he lost on the argument before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Throughout his career practicing law, Adelman was also a leader in the Wisconsin State Senate, to which he was elected in 1976, and where he remained until his appointment to the district court.


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