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March 1, 2006

Third Branch article on post-Booker sentencing

Guideline_chart2 With great thanks to Sean Sirrine at Objective Justice for this pointer, I see that The Third Branch — which is the official newsletter of the federal courts — has this article in its February 2006 Issue notably titled "A Year After Booker: Most Sentences Still Within Guidelines."   Followers of the blog will not be surprised by the reported numbers (which come from the US Sentencing Commission), but they will want to check out some of the charts and quotes.  Here is a sample:

"The data show that sentencing practices have not changed substantially. There is some variation in some cases, but it's a matter of several percentage points," said U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell (D. Utah), chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on Criminal Law.

"The question is 'What explains all that?' I think what's going on is that trial judges around the country have grown used to operating in a guidelines system," Cassell said. "It's the coin of the realm, if you will. The guidelines, although advisory, provide a starting point.  We've had almost 20 years of experience with the guidelines."

March 1, 2006 at 01:58 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Gosh, and here I thought federal judges had been chafing for years under mandatory guidelines, but it turns out they actually like them.

Posted by: Brian K | Mar 1, 2006 2:02:23 PM

Judges like to point to guidelines as the reason why they have to issue such harsh punishments. Like the teacher who says she is forced to paddle the student for being late to class because the principal requires paddling of 10 licks for tardiness, then the teacher who swings the paddle is exonerated for the paddling in her own mind, she can say “I only followed orders”. Judges love to hate the guidelines, because giving a young man a sentence of 20 to 30 years or even life for a handful of crack would be hard to live with. But when they can say I only followed the guidelines, they rest in peace, at least in their own minds. People always look to blame someone or something else for them having done what is repugnant instead of taking the credit and the blame like judges pointing elsewhere for justifying the sentence imposed. Under the parole system, judges could issue an onerous sentence knowing the parole system would correct the severity, now they are saying I only did what was reasonable. How is 30 years in prison for $200 worth of crack reasonable, logical, equitable or evenhanded, it is “only following orders” of an advice-like, mandatory, prohibitive, must utilize guideline system?

Posted by: Barry Ward | Mar 1, 2006 4:45:54 PM

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