Back when I was a first-year federal prosecutor, we’d get assigned every few months to do “misdemeanor duty.” We’d have to go over to the courthouse and process the pettiest of federal cases — smoking in a Veterans Administration hospital, low level theft of mail, a fistfight at a federal park, that kind of thing. While the statutory maximum technically is up to one year in prison, nobody got locked up for a misdemeanor. Usually, it was just a quick guilty plea, a fine and an admonition not to do it again.
“[D]oes the government have any concern given the factual predicate at issue here, of the defendant joining a mob, breaking into the Capitol building through a broken door, wandering through the Capitol building and stopping a constitutionally mandated duty of the Congress and terrorizing members of Congress, the vice president, who had to be evacuated?” Howell asked.
Howell added, “Does the government, in agreeing to the petty offense in this case, have any concern about deterrence?”
This is an important point. Deterrence — sending a message to the defendant and to the general public that conduct is unacceptable and will be punished seriously — is a legitimate goal of prosecutors and the court system alike. A spate of misdemeanor pleas achieves the opposite effect, signaling that the January 6 cases are petty or insignificant.
Garland said all the right things before he took office. Now he needs to make good on them.
On to your questions
Craig (New Jersey): Can the government legally require students to be vaccinated before returning to school?
David (California): Does the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have the legal power to extend the eviction moratorium based on the ongoing Covid pandemic?
However, Kavanaugh plainly believed the CDC’s moratorium was illegal — he wrote that the CDC had “exceeded its existing statutory authority” — but he agreed to leave the original moratorium in place because it only had a few weeks left to run. Kavanaugh also made clear that he would not uphold an extension of the policy, unless Congress takes action first: “In my view, clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium,” he wrote.