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Appellate Judge Blasts Federal Prosecutor in Salad Dressing Conviction

henries31In this harsh criticism of a federal prosecutor, an appellate judge took the unusual step of specifically mentioning the prosecutor by name. Federal prosecutors should probably take note of the ruling to avoid similar situations in the future.

By Ameet Sachdev
Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO — U.S. Appeals Judge Richard Posner is known for his provocative opinions, but his harsh criticism of a Chicago federal prosecutor surprises even close court observers.

In a March 12 opinion overturning a 2007 conviction of a suburban businessman who had relabeled bottles of salad dressing, Posner blasted Assistant U.S. Atty. Juliet Sorensen for improper statements. Posner said the appellate panel tossed out the guilty verdict because of insufficient evidence, but he added that even if there had been enough proof, he would have ordered a new trial because of the “prosecutor’s misconduct.”

It’s not unusual for judges to be critical of prosecutorial tactics. But Posner’s rebuke is drawing attention because he identified the prosecutor by name and called for sanctions.

“The government’s appellate lawyer told us that the prosecutor’s superior would give her a talking-to,” Posner wrote in the opinion that was joined by two other judges on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “We are not impressed by the suggestion.”

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