Sentenced to Law School

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PG acknowledges that this this is not the usual discussion fodder he posts about.

For those unfamiliar, The ABA Journal is the monthly magazine published by The American Bar Association. The ABA is the largest voluntary bar association in the United States.

In order to practice law in the United States, a person must be a member of a state bar association. That’s a mandatory bar association that typically requires a graduate from an accredited law school to pass a bar exam. The difficulty of the exam varies from state to state. California has typically had the most difficult bar exam with a typical pass rate of around 50%.

So, the ABA doesn’t include a lot of blue collar lawyers. Back when he was a blue collar lawyer, PG was a member of the ABA because they usually paid his way to attend the Annual Meeting. The reason the ABA paid was because PG would present a continuing legal education program which a lot of lawyers liked in the legal world of long ago. PG also wrote a monthly column for The ABA Journal about computers and lawyers.

Why was PG in demand to be a presenter? He understood how to use computers in a law office at a time when a very small percentage of lawyers knew how to operate a computer, let alone had one in their office. They paid secretaries or paralegals to do that sort of thing for them. Needless to say, that generation of lawyers are long gone to that big bar meeting in the sky.

From the ABA Journal:

Based on federal sentencing guidelines, people found guilty of trafficking large amounts of cocaine usually face lengthy sentences. However, a Texas defendant received what many say is an unusual punishment: five days in prison with credit for time served and direction from the judge to complete her JD.

Chelsea Nichole Madill was accused of trafficking 28.5 kilos of cocaine in a 2018 criminal complaint. She was charged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, and in 2019, Madill pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute a Schedule II drug.

Federal sentencing experts say the average penalty for that crime is around five years. In addition to the law school piece and no prison time, Madill was sentenced to three years of supervised release. The 2023 sentencing judgment was written by Southern District of Texas Chief Judge Randy Crane.

Much of the record is sealed, and whether Madill attended or completed law school is not disclosed. There is someone with that name listed as a 2L Florida A&M University College of Law student bar association board member. A 2019 order authorized travel expenses for Madill, directing the U.S. marshal to obtain the cheapest means of noncustodial transportation possible between her Florida residence and the McAllen, Texas, courthouse.

“The court would suggest that the least expensive means would be via bus and not by airplane,” the judge wrote.

Madill did not respond to an ABA Journal interview request sent through LinkedIn, and her phone number listed in court records was disconnected. FAMU Law also did not respond to ABA Journal interview requests.

She could have had what is known as “the girlfriend problem,” says Douglas A. Berman, an Ohio State University Moritz College of Law professor. The term refers to long sentences for women who may not be actively involved in “serious drug dealing” but participate in trafficking to preserve a relationship with a boyfriend or husband, Berman says.

“Maybe the judge thought requiring pursuit of a law degree would reduce the likelihood she’d get involved with the wrong folks,” says Berman, who writes the Sentencing Law and Policy blog.

He adds that rehabilitation should be a goal in sentencing.

“The threat of serious confinement often gets people behaving well. She may have been extra motivated to be the best version of herself while this was pending,” Berman says.

Or it could have been the judge ensuring Madill would keep her word.

“Given the sparseness of the record, my first instinct was, the judge doesn’t want to be snookered by the argument of ‘I’m going to go to law school, so give me a break’ if she’s not going to see it through,” Berman says.

Jesse Salazar, the assistant U.S. attorney assigned to the case, referred an ABA Journal interview request to a public affairs officer. The PAO said the office did not object to the sentence.

3 thoughts on “Sentenced to Law School”

  1. But…but…but…

    Don’t most bar assocs require good character, starting with a clean criminal record?

    • Based on the actual character of too many members of the bar:

      “You keep using that [term]. I do not think it means what you think it does.”

      Or maybe it was a sentence not to law school per se, but to the bar exam. That, I’m afraid, implicates the Eighth Amendment.

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