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December 6, 2005

A reasonableness two for Tuesday from the 7th Circuit

The Seventh Circuit today released two decisions which expound upon the meaning and nature of reasonableness review and also upon what the Circuit expects of its district courts in post-Booker sentencing:

In US v. Bokhari, No. 05-1302 (7th Cir. Dec. 6, 2005) (available here), the Seventh Circuit faults the district court for not doing a precise and complete guideline calculation:

Simply put, the sentencing record here lacks sufficient clarity for this court to determine how — or if — the district court made final rulings on the defendants' objections to the PSR, much less the district court's methodology and final determinations pertaining to total offense level under the Guidelines. This is not a mere academic exercise.  Without specific information pertaining to the district court's calculation of the total offense level, we cannot determine whether the sentence falls within the Guidelines range (and therefore is entitled to a presumption of reasonableness) or whether it falls outside of the recommended range (and therefore requires sufficient additional reasoning from the district court).

In US v. Lopez, No. 05-2432 (7th Cir. Dec. 6, 2005) (available here), the Seventh Circuit rejects the defendant's claim that a sentence is unreasonable just because the final PSR calculation of the guideline range differed from what appeared in the plea agreement:

Lopez argues that his sentence is excessive because a sentence within the guideline range found in the original plea agreement would have been sufficient to achieve the goals of 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(2).  It is not relevant to this Court's review whether the sentence found in the plea agreement calculation would also have been reasonable.

The role of this Court is not to choose between possible sentences, but rather to review the reasonableness of the sentence imposed by the district court.  The sentence imposed in this case was within the advisory range of the sentencing guidelines, based upon the factors in section 3553(a), and reflects significant consideration of the competing goals of sentencing.  After a thorough discussion of the sentencing factors, the district court found that the guidelines captured the appropriate penalty in this case.  By sentencing Lopez to the lowest sentence within the guideline range, the district court properly balanced its desire to avoid unreasonably prolonged incarceration, while recognizing the seriousness of the offenses committed.  The sentence imposed by the district court was reasonable.

December 6, 2005 at 03:24 PM | Permalink

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