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February 15, 2005

A few highlights from Day 1 of the USSC hearings

The US Sentencing Commission did itself proud through its first day of Booker hearings: it invited a diverse set of witnesses who addressed a diverse array of important post-Booker topics and shared advice that should help the USSC in its challenging post-Booker work.  The richness of the testimony and the Q & A cannot be fully captured in this space, but below I spotlight a few substantive and rhetorical highlights drawn from the written testimony of today's witnesses (most of which is linked here at the USSC's website).  Later tonight, I hope to have the time and energy to do a few posts with commentary concerning today's festivities.

Chief US District Judge Thomas Hogan (DC): "[T]he US Judicial Conference has not yet taken an official position on sentencing in the wake of the Booker decision....  [T]he Judicial Conference's Criminal Law Committee has taken the lead and is now hard at work developing policy recommendations for the Conference's consideration [which likely] will be considered at the March 15, 2005 meeting of the Judicial Conference."

Chief US District Judge Lawrence Piersol (SD): "I believe that Booker provides a nearly perfect sentencing system.... I urge the Commission to take the position that the 'Bowman fix' is no fix at all — it is somewhere between a flat tire and a blowout.... The Bowman 'fix' would at the least be declared unconstitutional in some Circuits so we would have a year or two where federal sentencing law would be in an upheaval while that issue was being initially resolved."

US District Judge Paul Cassell (Utah): "[T]he Commission invited me to suggest changes to the Guidelines and other bodies of law that might be appropriate in the wake of Booker.  I would like to respectfully offer seven tentative suggestions.... The common theme to these suggestions is that they would all encourage judge to say more closely attuned to the Guidelines."

US District Judge Lynn Adelman (ED Wisc): "Booker does two things that will lead to a more just system: (1) it restores federal judges to a meaningful role in the sentencing process; and (2) it makes clear that fairness in sentencing requires consideration of factors other than reducing sentencing disparities."

US District Judge Richard Kopf (Neb): "[J]udges obviously know more about the individuals we sentence than many other people [but] the significance of this truism to the statutory goals of sentencing is often zilch.... [T]he importance of 'knowing the person' is overstated by those who want excuses to do something different than what the Guidelines dictate.... Congress and the Commission should go slow and see what happens. If most district judges exercise the restraint that I predict they will, and circuit judges use Guidelines-sensitive standards for the defiant, Booker will turn out to be, in the words of one famous federal prisoner, 'a good thing.'"

Mary Price (FAMM): "The Blakely and Booker opinions launched what you recently described as a national conversation about sentencing. Your voice must figure prominently in that discussion. This is not a time to tinker around the edges of reform or rush to adopt measures designed to just meet, or worse, avoid, constitutional requirements.... We ask you to think big and reach back to foundation principles of justice."

Collene (Thompson) Campbell (MOVE): "We must make certain that fair and reasonable, but realistic and tough, sentencing guidelines are in place and followed. We must be positive that our standards are not weak, or give into those with a propensity for violence.... This Commission must build into its sentencing policies and procedures a requirement that Judges are obligated to give the victim a right to be heard and must take into consideration and understand the impact of the crime, along with the views of the victim, prior to making any sentencing decisions."

Paul Rosenzweig (Heritage): "Booker will not endure [because] the pushme-pullyou solution in Booker can long withstand either political or constitutional scrutiny.... There are so many questions that underlie the 'reasonableness' standard that I feel utterly confident in predicting years of litigation, multiple circuit splits, and the frequent necessity for clarifying Supreme Court intervention."

February 15, 2005 at 07:38 PM | Permalink

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