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10-2436, 10-2468 & 10-2469 U.S. v. Courtland


10-2436, 10-2468 & 10-2469 U.S. v. Courtland


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Separation of powers

It did not violate the separation of powers doctrine for a sentencing court to educate himself about the crime and prepare a memorandum about it, where the court gave the parties the opportunity to respond to it.

“Judges generally are under no obligation to relate all they have learned about a species of crime from whatever source to those accused of the crime in question. We note with approval that the district court was concerned with giving the parties the opportunity to comment on the general reference material it consulted. To do so here was in keeping with the spirit of, but not required by, the Code of Conduct for United States Judges in the sense that the Code of Conduct requires judges to give parties an opportunity to respond to ex parte communications. If the judge in this case had read 8 the same background material and not informed the parties (which is common practice, and not objectionable), it might not have reflected such a sensitive respect for the adversary process. Nevertheless, we do not rule out the possibility that where there has been a ‘litany of inflammatory remarks,’ Figueroa, 622 F.3d at 744, we cannot be as certain as we are here that they did not influence the sentence. In other words, relevant to our affirmance is our confidence that the district court did not attribute to the defendants the evils related in the ‘sentencing memorandum.’ On the whole, we believe the district court’s recourse to, and handling of a ‘sentencing memorandum’ was unusually sensitive to the rights of the parties and provided them and the court with an appropriate perspective on the sentencing task.”


10-2436, 10-2468 & 10-2469 U.S. v. Courtland

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Reagan, J., Cudahy, J.

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