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March 29, 2006

Abramoff gets guideline minimum

As discussed in more detail in this earlier post, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced in federal court today in Florida for his role in a fraud involving a casino fleet.  Abramoff's lawyers produced this remarkable 60-page memorandum in aid of sentencing to ask for a sentence at the bottom of the stipulated guidelines range (70 months).  This AP story details that Abramoff received this guideline minimum sentence.

March 29, 2006 at 01:48 PM | Permalink


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What's remarkable about the sentencing memorandum? It's longer and more detailed than many, but in substance it's not that different from those that are filed in district courts (or at least this district court) all the time. I've seen similar endeavors by our local (and excellent) federal public defender service.

-- A current U.S. District Court clerk

Posted by: Anonymous | Mar 29, 2006 4:11:57 PM

I am glad to hear that documents of this sort are not uncommon, although the length and detail for the memo seems remarkable in conjunction with a simply request for a sentence at the bottom of the stipulated guideline range.

My (ivory tower/uniformed) sense was always that detailed sentencing memos of this sort were the exception rather than the rule (especially in "high-volume" district), but perhaps I am wrong about this.

Posted by: Doug B. | Mar 29, 2006 4:47:38 PM

Yes, I'd say that the length and detail is unusual for such a request--that kind of herculean memo is, in my experience, most often reserved for memos that oppose a sentencing enhancement or the like. I would expect nothing less from high-quality retained counsel, though, and I wouldn't be shocked to see it (in our district) from appointed counsel. The reason I posted is that I wasn't sure if I'd missed something else that was remarkable about it--if someone as high-profile (and wealthy) as Abramoff were in our court awaiting sentencing, I'd be surprised not to see that kind of memo.

It's entirely possible that my sample is skewed--I clerk in Maryland, which is one of only a few districts nationwide that has a full-time CJA Supervising Attorney in addition to a top-notch public defender's office. (Indeed, I'd say the average quality of appointed counsel is higher than the average quality of retained counsel.) Consequently, the typical quality of representation in criminal proceedings is very high, and I don't know how that differs in other districts.

I do think that there's a widespread recognition out there that in many cases, sentencing is far more important than trial (and that it's in everyone's interests, in these cases, for trial to be replaced by a guilty plea), and I think (and hope) that resources are expended commensurately.

(Incidentally, the importance of sentencing in criminal law today is why this blog is such an interesting and useful resource--thanks for taking the time to do it!)

-- The same current U.S. District Court clerk

Posted by: Anonymous | Mar 29, 2006 7:46:57 PM

Thanks, Anon, for the follow-up. This is an interesting issue that I may bring up to a full post to get other input.

Posted by: Doug B. | Mar 29, 2006 9:23:27 PM

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