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Judges tend to be more restrained than revolutionary. But that hasn’t stopped Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District of New York from speaking out about what he sees as serious problems in the justice system.
Rakoff, a former prosecutor and white-collar defense attorney who became a judge in 1996, has for years criticized laws and prosecutorial practices that have given the privileged a pass and led to high imprisonment rates for the poor and minorities. He has spoken up for civil liberties and called for judges to be given more authority.
Some of his rulings have reverberated across the country. In 2002, Rakoff ruled the death penalty unconstitutional, and while his decision was reversed on appeal, the weakness of witness testimony and the frequency of DNA-related exonerations are topics he has written about often. He has also lived through the anguish that families of murder victims feel, with his own brother, Jan Rakoff, having been murdered in the Philippines decades ago.
But Rakoff’s name may be best known in Wall Street legal departments. In 2009, he refused to approve a $33 million settlement between Bank of America and the Securities and Exchange Commission over insufficient disclosures about its purchase of Merrill Lynch. (He approved the deal after it was raised to $150 million.) In 2011, he vetoed a $285 million deal between the SEC and Citigroup related to mortgage investments. That ruling was reversed on appeal.
Earlier this year, Rakoff published a book, “Why the Innocent Plead Guilty and the Guilty Go Free,” that describes issues with the justice system. It also includes sections on bad forensic science, including the historic misuse of neuroscience by courts, and on the often overlooked antisemitic parts of the Magna Carta, which checked the power of the English king.
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Source:: Business Insider