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|Current Court Information:|
|Northern District of Iowa|
|Appointed by:||Bill Clinton|
|Active:||August 26, 1994 - Present|
|Chief:||1999 - 2006|
|Preceded by:||Donald O'Brien|
|Past post:||Federal magistrate judge|
|Past term:||1991 - 1994|
|Undergraduate:||Gustavus Adolphus College, B.A., 1972|
|Law School:||Drake U. Law School, J.D., 1975|
Mark W. Bennett is an Article III federal judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa. He joined the court in 1994 after being nominated by President Bill Clinton.
Early life and education
A native of Wisconsin, Bennett graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with his bachelor's degree in 1972 and later graduated from Drake University Law School with his juris doctorate degree in 1979.
Bennett spent his entire pre-judicial legal career in Private practice in Iowa from 1975 to 1991. While in private practice, Bennett served as General Counsel for the Iowa Civil Liberties Union from 1975 to 1989, became Supervising attorney for the Drake University Law School's Legal Ethics Clinic from 1981 to 1983 and was special prosecutor on the Committee of Professional Ethics and Conduct of the Iowa State Bar in 1987. Bennett also taught academically as a Lecturer in trial advocacy for the University of Iowa College of Law from 1984 to 1985 and served as a instructor for the Drake University Trial Advocacy Institute from 1987 to 1989.
Northern District of Iowa
Bennett started his Federal judicial career as a federal magistrate judge in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa from 1991 to 1994. On the recommendation of Senator Tom Harkin, Bennett was nominated by President Bill Clinton on June 21, 1994, to a seat vacated by Donald O'Brien as O'Brien went on senior status. Bennett was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on August 9, 1994 on a Senate vote and received commission on August 26, 1994. Bennett served as the chief judge of the Northern District of Iowa from 1999 to 2006.
Cocaine sentencing guidelines
In 2009, Judge Bennett is believed to be the first federal judge to sentence convicted drug dealers without complying with federal guidelines, based on policy differences. "The United States Supreme Court said that district court judges, if we wanted to, had a right to disagree with the (sentencing) guidelines if we had policy differences," Bennett says.
Under standard guidelines, someone convicted of dealing five grams of crack cocaine could get a five-year sentence, while someone dealing powder cocaine would have to be convicted of dealing 500 grams to get the same sentence. "Many federal judges thought that the 100-to-one ratio created too much disparity. The impact was to be highly-discriminatory towards African Americans," according to Bennett. Judge Bennett is now sentencing both crack and powder cocaine dealers according to the milder powder cocaine guidelines.
- Bennett Biography from the Federal Judicial Center
- The Nation, "How Mandatory Minimums Forced Me to Send More Than 1,000 Nonviolent Drug Offenders to Federal Prison," November 12, 2012
|Federal judicial offices|
|Northern District of Iowa
|Magistrate judges||Jon Scoles • Leonard T. Strand •|
|Former Article III judges|
|Former Chief judges|