Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Coughenour Profile

Judge John C. Coughenour (W.D. Wash.) is a well-respected judge, noted for his high standards for attorneys and compassion for criminal defendants, according to a profile in yesterday's Seattle Times. David Bowermaster, "Senior status" isn't likely to dilute judge's demanding, compassionate style, Seattle Times, Aug. 1, 2006.

When Judge Coughenour toured the new federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon, in 1989, a prisoner greeted him and Coughenour talked to him about prison conditions and his plans after his release. Since then, the judge has regularly visited the prison and offers to spend 15-20 minutes with anyone he has sentenced.

Judge Coughenour has spoken out against mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses because they are often harsh and remove discretion from the judge.

Judge Coughenour has handled some high-profile cases, including the fraud trial of the Montana Freemen in 1998 and the trial of terrorist Ahmed Ressam.

The Times article doesn't mention it, but Judge Coughenour also chaired the Ninth Circuit Gender Task Force whose report, The Effects of Gender in the Federal Courts, was issued in 1993. I remember hearing him speak around then, and he indicated that his service on the task force had made a big impression on him. Having a white, Midwestern Reagan-appointee become an advocate for gender equity may have made an impression on others, as well: if he thinks there might be a problem here, well, then maybe there is!

UW notes: Coughenour was a full-time faculty member at the UW in the early 1970s, teaching Trial Practice (the predecessor to today's Trial Advocacy class). He has taught Advanced Trial Advocacy here as a part-time faculty member for years. (Sign up for it in winter 2007!) The Times profile quotes two Trial Ad instructors, private attorney Jeffery Robinson and federal public defender Thomas Hillier.

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