Juneteenth and Criminal Justice Reform
Several years ago, before becoming a business litigator, I had the great fortune of clerking for Judge Myron H. Bright on the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals. Born in northern Minnesota in 1919 to Jewish immigrants from Russia, Judge Bright served in World War II and afterward attended the University of Minnesota Law School. Upon graduating, he took a position at a law firm in Fargo, North Dakota at one of the few firms in the region that would hire persons of Jewish descent. In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Judge Bright to the Eighth Circuit where he served until passing in 2016.
Throughout his nearly 50 years on the bench, Judge Bright was a tireless advocate for equal justice under the law. This was perhaps most evident in his views on federal sentencing and the Sentencing Guidelines– in particular, the differences in sentences for crack and powder cocaine. In a multitude of dissents spanning two decades, Judge Bright regularly assailed sentences that treated persons convicted of offenses involving crack cocaine equal to, or worse, than murder. This is not hyperbole. See Robert Perkinson, Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire 336 (Metropolitan Books 2010) (“In 1995,