When I first read this headline, my honest thought was, Judge Power extremely biased in a case. That could be so many cases. Which case are they talking about, though?
A. The time he told a litigant that he was going to “whack these things with a hammer” and some other judge had to make excuses for him?
B. The Charese Arnold case where he walked right through a sentencing agreement and gave the defendant the sentence she was charged with and not the one she pleaded guilty to?
C. The Robert Schwander case, where Judge Power and Judge Rodgers repeatedly gave him a sentence for 1st degree murder over and over again when the jury convicted him of second degree? That case isn’t even resolved yet.
So it’s none of them. Judge Power gave us a new one. This time it’s the Samantha Lynn Hughes case. Hughes failed out of the recovery court program by tampering with her electronic monitor. She was pregnant at the time of her sentencing. Rather than giving Hughes the standard sentence for such an offense, Judge Power sent Hughes to prison for 13 months. He said that it was necessary to protect the unborn child. Power’s only reason for the extended sentence was Hughes’ pregnancy. The Court of Appeals threw out the sentence and ordered that Hughes be released immediately.
What about all the bad things that happen when someone sits in prison? A sentence should never be based on the fact that it’s “better” for someone to sit in prison. Hughes almost certainly received poor prenatal medical care in prison. Abuse runs rampant in prison. Who knows what her unborn child had to endure there. Here’s an article about abuse at Michigan’s women’s prison, Huron Valley. The things prisoners report in that article are horrific. Here is another article about a pregnant woman seriously mistreated in jail. Inadequate nutrition, medical care, counseling services, lack of sunlight even, all could have damaged her unborn child while she sat in prison.
If Power’s motivation was to protect the unborn child, why did he give her 13 months in prison instead of 9 months in jail? What were the extra four months for? To ensure that Hughes’ child was placed in foster care? To punish Hughes in some other way? Does Judge Power know how long a pregnancy is? Can someone ask why it takes 13 months to do something that takes 9 months, tops?
Sarah Hughes Case – Judge Power, Grand Traverse County
Power’s response. Well, I got away with it. Because it takes time to appeal. So by the time the higher court could undo my unconstitutional ruling, I already got away with that unconstitutional thing I wanted to do. So whattayagonnadoaboutit?
The unrepentant judge says that the ends justified the means. Yeah, he might have violated the constitution, but look at the good he did. So what if he violated someone’s rights and failed to follow the law? He did good.
Here’s the problem with that logic:
Lots of people believe in doing “good.” Almost everyone in fact. But our versions of good are very different. Which is why the constitution and rule of law exist.
So again, and we’ve talked about this before, the problem with judges who think doing “good” trumps following the law and the constitution, is that “good” is a relative term. We end up not living in the United States of American, we live in the United Kingdom of Grand Traverse, Leelanau and Antrim Counties. And that’s scary for any litigant who is trying to make choices about their case knowing that the judge is just going to do whatever they want and isn’t going to feel bad about it. It should worry any person in the jurisdiction because the equal application of rule of law is the largest factor distinguishing the first and third worlds. No, I’m not being overly dramatic.
Can the court base sentencing on whether or not you’re pregnant?
So this raises the question of whether the court can give you a worse sentence because you’re pregnant. No, they can’t. It’s a violation of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal treatment of all.
The logic is that there are many things that can harm a fetus – caffeine is perfectly legal and it causes really bad harm to fetuses. So do cigarettes. If there’s just a vague – I’m sentencing you worse for harming an unborn child, there’s no way for a pregnant person to know what’s illegal and what’s okay. You might do bad things to your unborn child, and since I’ve got you in court, I’m going to do what I gotta do for your child’s own good – constitution be dammed – opens the door for the judge to jail any pregnant woman “for the good of the unborn child.”
By that logic, what about a man who is expecting a child who is doing drugs? Shouldn’t he be sent to prison so that he’s sobered up and prepared to be a father when the child arrives? What about expectant parents of both genders who aren’t eating healthy? Wouldn’t it be better for the unborn child that they be sent to prison to get healthy prison meals for the child? And how many servings of fruit and vegetables do you have to eat a day in order to not get sent to extra time out for your unborn baby’s good? What about not getting enough rest, or exercise? Why just drugs? Why not go to prison for any harmful behavior while you’re under the thumb of the court. Maybe because judges aren’t the world’s greatest social engineers? Here’s another article that explains it well.
Holding judges accountable for acting like queens
So what can we do about Judge Power and other judges who decide to rule as queens instead of acting like honest, humble arbiters of the written law as they are elected to do. As a society, we should be concerned when judges don’t give a **** about following the law. It impacts our very fabric of society. This case has gotten significant national attention. I don’t know how many more examples we need from Judge Power that he runs a kingdom instead of a courthouse, and he’s proud and unrepentant. Unfortunately, the only people who police judges are judges, so my guess is nothing will happen.