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August 10, 2005

Judge Adelman spotlights problems with mandatories

During our panel about mandatory sentencing at this week's NASC Conference, Julie Stewart of FAMM made the terrific suggestion that the US Sentencing Commission update its terrific (but now a bit dated) critique of crude and harsh mandatory minimum statutes in its Special Report to Congress: Mandatory Minimum Penalties in the Federal Criminal Justice System (1991).  Especially post-Booker, when a few members of Congress seem eager to add crude and harsh mandatory minimum provisions to every piece of legislation, it would be extraordinarily valuable for the USSC to reiterate the many problems created by crude and harsh mandatory minimum sentences that it detailed in its 1991 report.

Fortunately, we do not need to wait for the USSC to get a post-Booker primer on the problems with crude and harsh mandatory minimum sentences within a guideline system.  Sentencing Hall of Famer Judge Lynn Adelman in his opinion in US v. Alexander, No. 04-CR-253 (E.D. Wis. Aug. 9, 2005) (available for download below), provides an extended thoughtful explanation of the problems that mandatories continue to pose in the post-Booker world.  Here is just a small snippet of an opinion that should be read in full:

[S]tatutes establishing mandatory minimum sentences isolate a single aggravating circumstance and require a disproportionate increase in punishment whenever the circumstance is present. This can lead to sharp differentials or "cliffs" based on small differences in offense conduct. United States Sentencing Commission, Special Report to Congress: Mandatory Minimum Penalties in the Federal Criminal Justice System 29-30 (1991) (noting ยง 924(c) as an example of a statutory mandatory minimum that overrides the guideline approach of incremental punishment).  Mandatory minimums can therefore distort the rationality of the guideline system set up by the SRA.  William W. Wilkins, Jr., Letter from Chairman Wilkins Concerning Mandatory Minimums, reprinted in, 3 Fed. Sent. Rep. 103 (Sept./Oct. 1990).

Download adelman_alexander_opinion.pdf

August 10, 2005 at 02:56 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Student- the link the the case doesnt seem to be working.

Posted by: Liz | Aug 10, 2005 1:36:43 PM

Liz: I am not having a problem with the pdf. Are others?

Posted by: Doug B. | Aug 10, 2005 2:07:50 PM

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