First, check out the Hon. Dennis Sweeney’s statement on the Sheila Dixon case. If you take the time to read it, you will find it very enlightening. If I’m wrong, I will refund the purchase price of this blog post.
It is clearly Judge Sweeney’s belief that the conviction was not the result of a confused jury, political play, or anything other than the fact that Mayor Dixon did some things that any reasonable person, particularly one with her intelligence and political experience, would know were stupid.
I have seen Judge Sweeney speak (in fact, the topic was professionalism and ethics), know his reputation in the legal community, and have had friends serve as his clerks. He’s now retired, because Maryland has an incredibly stupid law requiring judges to step down at age 70, but allowing them to hear cases part time. In my opinion, all that does is bolster his props as an independent outsider. He’s legit. I am accepting his opinion at face value.
Really, this piqued my curiosity because it is an extremely rare insight into the judicial thought process. We rarely get an unvarnished version of what a judge truly thinks about a given case. It is apparent that Judge Sweeney accepted the plea deal because he found that it was in the interest of justice and in the interest of the citizens of Baltimore and the democratic process.
Oh, and he was right to stick up for the jurors. Trial by jury is the essence of democracy. Limiting the right to a jury trial makes sense only if you want to live somewhere like China, Cuba, the Soviet Union, or Iran. It’s not a perfect system, but it beats the alternative handily under any system of measurement you can devise.
Second, if you want to read an appellate opinion that can easily be understood by any layperson, and that also features seamless legal analysis, check out this opinion by the Hon. Charles Moylan. An easy way to spot a Judge Moylan opinion is with a scale. The heavier it is, the more likely it’s his. He tends a little to the wordy. But what’s great about him is his opinions always have everything you need to fully understand whatever he is discussing. If I am doing research, I love coming across a Moylan opinion because invariably he has collected all the relevant authority in one place. I’m no criminal lawyer, but I had no trouble understanding the complex Fourth Amendment analysis Judge Moylan is making, and I doubt you will either.
Seriously, tell me it makes sense for this guy to be relegated to part-time status at age 70. That rule should really be changed.