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Archive for September, 2010

Jose Figueroa, a Mexican-American, was convicted of running a multimillion-dollar cocaine operation in Wisconsin. Prior to sentencing, the trial judge, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa, made a number of comments about Mexico’s contribution to drug and immigration issues in the United States, angrily referring to Figueroa and his family as “you people” several times. Judge Randa linked the Mexican drug trade to Colombia and Venezuela, and then to Iranian terrorists through Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He further commented that Figueroa was lucky to be headed to a U.S. prison, rather than a Mexican or Turkish one and explained that in Malaysia or Thailand, Figueroa’s conduct could have resulted in execution. When Figueroa tried to explain that he was a good family man, Judge Randa replied that “even Adolf Hitler was admired by his family. Adolf Hitler loved his dog. Yet he killed 6 million Jews.” The judge then sentenced Figueroa to almost twenty years in prision, the low end of the guidelines range. 

Figueroa appealed, however, arguing that he was discriminated against on the basis of his national origin because of Judge Randa’s remarks. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found the judge’s comments to be out of line and ordered resentencing because his remarks called into question his impartiality in sentencing Figueroa:

We understand that sentencing is an individual, and at times idiosyncratic, process, and we recognize that the district court judge may have been frustrated by Figueroa’s lack of remorse and his arguments about the unfairness of his predicament. But this does not excuse the court from its duty to ensure a fair process.

The court further noted that Judge Randa’s process “was so far out of bounds that Figueroa [was] entitled to resentencing.”

For the full story, click http://www.courthousenews.com/2010/09/16/30416.htm.

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Clarence McCuller, a manager for Wackenhut Corporation, interviewed Lord Osunfarian Xodus for a security guard position. During the interview, McCuller informed Xodus that he would need to cut his dreadlocks off in order to obtain the position. Xodus, a Rastafarian, refused and sued for discrimination based on religious belief. He claimed that McCuller knew of his Rastafarian beliefs while interviewing him, including the belief that dreadlocks symbolize a bond with God based on a passage from the Bible: ‘[N]o razor shall come upon his head; . . . and he shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long.'”

The trial court dismissed Xodus’s claims because there was insufficient evidence that McCuller was aware of the religious significance of Xodus’s dreadlocks. McCuller testified that he was not aware of the Rastafarian religion and did not equate Xodus’ use of the word ‘belief’ with religion. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court. The court noted that the use of the word ‘belief’ and the dreadlocks themselves were insufficient notice to McCuller of the religious nature of Xodus’s hairstyle: “Unlike race or sex, a person’s religion is not always readily apparent.” Because of this, it was necessary for Xodus to expressly bring his religious belief to McCuller’s attention. Accordingly, the dismissal was affirmed.

For the full story, click here.

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