Several years in the past, earlier than turning into a enterprise litigator, I had the nice fortune of clerking for Judge Myron H. Bright on the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals. Born in northern Minnesota in 1919 to Jewish immigrants from Russia, Judge Bright served in World War II and afterward attended the University of Minnesota Law School. Upon graduating, he took a place at a legislation agency in Fargo, North Dakota at one of many few companies within the area that will rent individuals of Jewish descent. In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Judge Bright to the Eighth Circuit the place he served till passing in 2016.

Throughout his practically 50 years on the bench, Judge Bright was a tireless advocate for equal justice underneath the legislation. This was maybe most evident in his views on federal sentencing and the Sentencing Guidelines– particularly, the variations in sentences for crack and powder cocaine. In a mess of dissents spanning 20 years, Judge Bright frequently assailed sentences that handled individuals convicted of offenses involving crack cocaine equal to, or worse, than homicide. This just isn’t hyperbole. See Robert Perkinson, Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire 336 (Metropolitan Books 2010) (“In 1995, the average federal prison term for a crack offense surpassed that of murder.”).

Take the case of United States v. Frank Edward Brewer, 624 F.3d 900 (8th Cir. 2010), during which the district courtroom sentenced Mr. Brewer to 30 years in jail after a jury discovered Mr. Brewer had possessed and conspired to distribute roughly 150 grams of crack cocaine to cops on 4 events. Thirty years’ incarceration was beneficial by the federal sentencing pointers, the identical as if Mr. Brewer had dedicated second diploma homicide. (Second diploma homicide is what the police officer who killed George Floyd was charged with after the Minnesota Attorney General took over the case). The majority of the courtroom affirmed Mr. Floyd’s sentence. In a scathing dissent, Judge Bright detailed the frenzied political local weather that resulted in a crack cocaine sentencing scheme untethered to actuality. (That scheme was the now notorious 100:1 statutory ratio, later diminished to 20:1 and which should be 1:1). Mr. Brewer was solely 32 years outdated when he was sentenced.

The outrageous sentences for crack cocaine offenses fell largely on Black males. Equally outrageous analogues exist throughout the felony justice system. In his Brewer dissent, Judge Bright cited analysis that on any given day, practically one-third of African American males of their twenties have been underneath some type of management by the felony justice system. In 2008, though African Americans have been solely 13 p.c of the inhabitants, they made up 40 p.c of the federal jail inhabitants. These disparities, argued Judge Bright, are “due primarily to the focus of the ‘war on drugs’ on black drug users.” As of June 13 2020, African Americans have been 38 p.c of the federal jail inhabitants. See here.

That the War on Drugs has been struggle on individuals of coloration is not any accident, as I identified in a publish about efforts to deschedule marijuana. I quoted Nixon lackey John Erlichman in that publish and it bears repeating:

“You want to know what this was really all about? . . . The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

This didn’t finish with Nixon as Michelle Alexander demonstrated in her 2010 e book, The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration within the Age of Colorblindness. In her e book, Ms. Alexander “shows that, by targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness.”

Communities throughout the nation are demanding their elected leaders reform and defund legislation enforcement. Here at Canna Law Blog, we urge our leaders to push even additional. We urge them to work tirelessly to stamp out the systemic racial discrimination pervasive in our felony justice system.

We stand with you this Juneteenth.

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