How One Federal Judge Arrived at Sentencing Judgments


Federal appeals court judge Denny Chin, 57, is best known for the 150-year sentence he imposed as a trial judge on Bernard Madoff, perhaps the most well-known white-collar penalty in American history. Chin tells the New York Times the thinking that went into some of the 1,100 sentences he issued starting in 1994.

He quickly learned that preparation was crucial and that he must not agonize over his decisions. One seasoned judge had advised: “Rule and roll.” Be decisive. Don't second-guess yourself. The Times says Chin’s thoughts offered a revealing look at how one judge approached sentencing, which he called “the hardest thing” about being on the bench. “It is just not a natural or everyday thing to do,” Chin explained, “to pass judgment on people, to send them to prison or not.”

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