D.C. Superior Court judges yesterday strongly objected to a suggestion that the city's judicial tenure commission have the authority to review the judges' compliance with proposed laws on criminal sentencing.
The new sentencing procedures are part of a major overhaul of the city's criminal code drafted by the D.C. Law Revision Commission and set to Congress for approval.
The judges' reaction came after a brief speech by Law Revision Commission member Frank J. Whalen Jr., who outlined the proposed laws at the third annual Judicial Conference of the District of Columbia.
Judge Bruce S. Mencher of the Superior Court told Whalen that he was "shocked" that the Law Revision Commission would consider giving review power to the D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure, which has the authority to discipline judges.
Mencher said the judges should not be "threatened" by the judicial tenure commission, when review of a judge's sentencing decision properly belongs in the D.C. Court of Appeals.
Whalen had said the tenure commission would help evaluate whether a judge had complied with fact-finding and other new procedures in revised criminal code, but added that no decision on review has been made.
He told Mencher that he understood there was "resentment" among some judges about the procedures proposed by the Law Revision Commission.
A few minutes later, another member of the Superior Court, Judge Joseph M. Hannon, told Whalen, "I fully subscribe" to Mencher's views.
At that point, Judge H. Carl Moultrie I, who last week was designated chief judge of the Superior Court called out from the back of the meeting room at the Sheraton Park Hotel, "All the judges do!" The comments were met with vigorous applause.
Judges from the Superior Court and the D.C. Court of Appeals, lawyers and citizens attended the two-day conference, which ended yesterday.
Other speakers directed sharp criticism at the Law Revision Commission during yesterday's meeting. City administrator Julian R. Dugas said the commission had not done its "homework" after Whalen told him that the potential costs of the new sentencing procedures had not been calculated by the commission.
The D.C. Department of Corrections has estimated that the city's prison population would double because of more restrictive sentencing procedures included in the proposed law.
In general, the new code defines basic crimes, like homicide and robbery, sets prison terms based on classes of crimes and sets down procedures the judges must follow in imposing sentences.
During the conference yesterday, a check for $4,789 was donated by the Nicky Solomon Foundation to the city's Office of Criminal Justice Plans and Analysis to be used to publish a booklet on computerized information systems at the Superior Court. The booklet is intended to help persons who deal with criminal cases -- like courthouse officials and the District police -- make maximum use of the court's resources.