Hon. Denny Chin Discusses the Challenges in Sentencing

Hon. Denny Chin Discusses the Challenges in Sentencing

On September 10, 2012, the Honorable Denny Chin delivered the 23rd Howard and Iris Kaplan Memorial Lecture to an audience of students, faculty, administrators and alumni. Chin served as a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York from his appointment in 1994 until his elevation to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2010.

In introducing Chin, Interim Dean Eric Lane remarked that the judge’s “jurisprudence has covered the everyday and the spectacular.” He also thanked Michael D. Patrick ’78, who was in the audience, for playing a key role in bringing Chin to the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University for this year’s lecture.

During Chin’s address, titled “A View From the Bench: A Conversation With Judge Denny Chin,” he discussed his most famous as well as his most difficult decisions, ranging from complex patent cases to his enjoinment of New York’s version of Megan’s Law to disputes involving such household names as Anna Kournikova, Al Franken, Mariah Carey, the late Whitney Houston and the Blue M&M.

Chin also explained his 2009 decision sentencing Bernard L. Madoff to 150 years in prison, stressing that retribution is a valid theory of punishment and that Madoff’s “crimes were extraordinarily evil.” Chin expressed concern that the “public does not understand how difficult a process sentencing is,” a concern that led him to give an interview to The New York Times on the subject.

While Chin related that he misses some of the independence he once had as a district judge, including the ability to preside over his own courtroom and not having to work in a panel of three appellate judges to review decisions, he admitted that he “love[s] having the whole world interested in” what he does, something that he certainly enjoys serving on the Court of Appeals.

On a more personal note, Chin spoke intimately about his family history and his own immigration to the United States as a 2-year-old. He highlighted the importance to the Asian-American community, and to himself, of his being the only sitting Asian-American federal circuit judge and only the second in the history of the United States.

Chin’s involvement in the Asian-American community extends much further than identity representation. For example, he has been actively involved with the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University’s chapter of the Asian-Pacific American Law Students Association by working with them on their reenactment, held on April 9, 2012, of the Vincent Chin trial.

The Kaplan Memorial Lecture seeks to have distinguished jurists speak at Hofstra Law to educate faculty, students, alumni and supporters on pressing and timely issues confronting the judiciary. The lecture series was initiated by Tony Kaplan ’82 to honor his parents and is supported by an endowment established by the Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation.

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