September 11, 2005
How would a Justice Gonzales or a Justice Thompson handle sentencing issues?
Last week, as detailed in this post, there was some interesting blog buzz about Janice Rogers Brown as a possible Supreme Court nominee and about her views on criminal law and procedure issues. Now, the buzz around AG Alberto Gonzales is growing (see articles here and here and here), and former Deputy AG Larry Thompson is also generating some media attention (see article here).
Significantly, both Gonzales and Thompson have far more significant track-records on criminal justice issues than Judge Roberts. As detailed in this post from last year, Gonzales has an especially checkered history with the death penalty as a result of his role in the 1990s advising then-Texas Governor George Bush on clemency decision-making. In addition, Gonzales' speeches advocating a Booker fix (basics here) make me somewhat wary of how a Justice Gonzales might handle the sentencing issues that will inevitably come before the Supreme Court.
I am less familiar with Thompson's record, though I know he has been both a prosecutor and a white-collar defense attorney. (The SCoNo blog has this helpful profile.) And I was intrigued to see in this article that his "nomination to the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department [back in 2001] was endorsed by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers." I suspect that Thompson is likely to be considered too unpredictable (and perhaps even too old at age 59) to move up President Bush's short list, but who knows these days.
By virtue of their history and familiarity with criminal justice matters, I think a Justice Gonzales or a Justice Thompson would help ensure that criminal cases get sufficient attention from the Supreme Court. But I can only speculate about what these two as Justices might do with sentencing issues on the merits. Readers are encouraged to use the comments to share perspectives on Gonzales and Thompson, or to name other (politically viable) prospective nominees who could be effective in the sentencing arena. (In this vein, considering the recent success of some Texans, I am inclined to start talking up USSC Chair (and UT alum) Judge Ricardo Hinojosa as a dark horse in the SCOTUS nominee race.)
UPDATE: Over at TalkLeft there is this follow-up post, which has lots of nice things to say about Larry Thompson. But, in the words of one commentor over there, the praise from TalkLeft "probably just got Thompson's robe fitting cancelled."