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January 1, 2006

Sentencing notes on CJ Roberts' first year-end report

Today Chief Justice John Roberts issued his first "Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary," and MSNBC has the full text here.  I especially liked the first line: "New Year's Day in America means football, parades, and, of course, the Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary."  How Appealing has collected here some media coverage of the report, most of which focuses on the money issues that Roberts discusses.

To my disappointment, there wasn't any exploration of sentencing issues in the main part of Roberts' report, even though the Booker decision dramatically impacted the work of federal courts and the US Sentencing Commission.  (Recall that the USSC is a part of the judiciary, and CJ Rehnquist in his year-end reports regularly discusses the USSC's work for the year.)

The Appendix to Roberts' report, which reviews the judiciary's workload, does have a number of sentencing-related items.  The workload statistics reveal the impact of both Booker and Katrina.  Here are excerpts:

Filings in the regional courts of appeals rose 9 percent to an all-time high of 68,473.... This increased stemmed from upswings in criminal appeals, original proceedings, and prisoner petitions following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004) and U.S. v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), and from continued growth in appeals of administrative agency decisions involving the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).  As large as the increase is, it would have been higher had not the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s operations been affected by Hurricane Katrina. That court's data include 92 appeals filings for the month of September, significantly lower than the 700 to 1,000 it reported for each month from October 2004 to August 2005. Nationwide, criminal appeals rose 28 percent to 16,060. The largest increases were in cases involving drugs (up 31 percent to 6,099), immigration (up 55 percent to 2,896), firearms and explosives (up 23 percent to 2,505), and property (up 15 percent to 1,967)....

Criminal case filings declined 2 percent to 69,575, and defendants in these cases declined one percent to 92,226. This drop was likely attributable in part to the effects of Hurricane Katrina.  After Katrina, district courts in the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits reported fewer cases than normal.  The decrease in filings in 2005 lowered the cases per authorized judgeship from 105 to 102.  The median case disposition time for defendants rose from 6.2 months in 2004 to 6.8 months in 2005, as courts took longer to process post-Booker cases.

January 1, 2006 at 08:59 AM | Permalink


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