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Are moderates supposed to be this feisty? During the opening day of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judicial conference in Huntington Beach, Calif., U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy responded to participants’ questions with some strong opinions on criminal justice. On the American Bar Association’s Kennedy Commission (it’s named for him but he’s not a member) review of sentencing guidelines, the justice pointed out that U.S. criminal sentences are more severe than Europe’s by a factor of eight. “I think there should be no mandatory minimums and the guidelines are far too severe,” Kennedy said. And noting that California has nearly 200,000 prison inmates, he said, “The fact that the prison guards’ union lobbies for longer sentences is sick.” As for being singled out as the swing vote on the court, Kennedy was asked how his colleagues feel about arguments being fashioned with him in mind. He smiled and said: “It is their jurisprudence. It is their problem.” Judge goes off Justice may be blind, but it’s not deaf. Ask U.S. District Judge William Shubb of Sacramento, Calif. Enraged when a cellphone went off in court, he demanded that its owner-a woman in her mid-60s-produce the device. He then proceeded to fling it down the hall. “I didn’t throw it; I tossed it,” Shubb stressed to the Sacramento News & Review. “I just wanted it gone.” He cited repeated violations of his no-cellphone rule, but conceded: “I’m sorry that had to happen. I wanted to make my point more strongly than I previously had done.”

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