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Judicial Nullification

We’ve talked often about the importance of jury nullification — the power of individual jurors to judge the law as well as the guilt of the defendant. It’s not an easy task — the court system is often stacked against the would-be nullifier.

But there’s another kind of nullification — judicial nullification. This is essentially when a judge says that he or she has had enough.

Of course, judges don’t have the same kind of power as a jury. They’re constrained by mandatory minimums and other limits on their ability to reduce or eliminate sentences. But they can still make a powerful statement.

A case in point is Federal Judge George Wu (thanks to Salem-News).

Federal District Judge George H. Wu issued a revised 41-page written sentencing order this week for former medical cannabis provider, Charles C. Lynch. In addition, the Judge also granted the defense’s request for reduced supervised restrictions as Lynch remains out on $400,000 bail pending appeal. Lynch’s Federal Public Defender filed an appeal Thursday, May 6.

“[T]his case is not like that of a common drug dealer buying and selling drugs without regulation, government oversight, and with no other concern other than making profits. In this case, the defendant opened a marijuana dispensary under the guidelines set forth by the State of California . . . . His purpose for opening the dispensary was to provide marijuana to those who, under California law, [were] qualified to receive it for medical reasons.”

The sentencing order states that Lynch was “caught in the middle of shifting positions” on the issue and that, “Much of the problems could be ameliorated…by the reclassification of marijuana from schedule I”

Of course, the feds don’t want to recognize that there’s a difference between Charlie Lynch and a criminal, but once a real human knows the facts, it’s hard to remain silent in the face of such injustice, and George Wu couldn’t.

There’s another important aspect to this case. Smart judges know the history of law, and understand that some bad laws end up living long after they have ceased to be supported by the country.

So what we do as individuals can have an impact here as well.

“While simple popularity is not a factor to be considered, the Court notes that it has received more letters in support of Lynch in this matter than in any other case in the undersigned judicial officer’s 16 years on the federal and state benches.”

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8 comments to Judicial Nullification

  • claygooding

    Until the banks and money institutions start losing money in the green market,there will be no change of marijuana from schedule 1. They realize full well that when they lose control of the studies allowed on marijuana,the overwhelming evidence will just prove that they have controlled marijuana because of the money they can make from it,not because of any danger too people or society.
    That is why we will only be able too legalize marijuana one state at a time. And they will use the federal government to fight that as far and as long as they can.
    Over growing our government and the money guys may be the only way we will ever win.
    Only when we redirect the money flow,away from the present black market,will the rich lose interest.

  • Douglas A. Willinger

    Judicial nullification: a great idea 95 years too late.

    To hell with these ‘asonic traitors to humanity!

  • During my trial one juror mentioned that she understood the concept of jury nullification and the judge cleared the courtroom and the juror was dismissed…so the lesson here is don’t ever mention jury nullification in court just do it if it is the right thing to do…

  • BruceM

    Juries cannot get overturned – a jury verdict is final. A judge who goes out on a limb and “nullifies” by ruling contrary to law will get overturned on appeal.

    The one exception to that is the supreme court, as there are no further appeals. But it’s a court of 9 justices and one strongly-worded dissent might make you feel good but it’s not going to fix anything. If you can convince 4 other justices to go along with you, then great – way to go. But you don’t get appointed to the supreme court because you’re a ballsy independent maverick who does things because they’re right. Having a conscience will disqualify anyone from so much as being put on a President’s “long list” for SCOTUS nomination.

    Jury nullification is different – an acquittal is final, for the most part. Problem is acquittal on state charges doesn’t preclude the federal government from bringing the same charges (no double jeopardy there). Also prosecutors like to go after people for more than one crime but save the other charges for later, just in case there’s an acquittal. Acquitted for selling marijuana on February 1, 2009, okay, now you’re being charged with selling marijuana on February 2, 2009. No double jeopardy there, either – different occurrence is a different crime, acquittal of one has no bearing on the legality of being charged for the other.

    I do think it’s blatantly unconstitutional to tell jurors they “must” follow the law and then make them take an OATH to that effect. All juries should not only not be prevented from being told about nullification, it should be a requirement that they be told about it. But the “saving the children prosecutors” lobby is very powerful, as is the “saving the children police officers” lobby. They will fight against anything that may result in less, or harder to get convictions.

  • […] presiding over the lamentable case of Charles C. Lynch, covered in an earlier post. As reported in Drug War Rant and […]

  • iDub

    who knew there is a pulse there?!

  • Hope

    Mr. Lynch. It’s good to hear from you. I’m so sorry for all that you are being dragged through.

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