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June 29, 2006

Sentencing fireworks in the Sixth Circuit

While everyone is focused on the last day before summer vacation for the Supreme Court, the Sixth Circuit today issued two remarkable split rulings on sentencing matters.  Here are highlights to two must-read opinions:

In US v. Vonner, No. 05-5295 (6th Cir. June 29, 2006) (available here), Judge Martin continues his terrific post-Booker work in a thoughtful majority opinion that declares a within-guideline sentence unreasonable for "lack of adequate explanation."  (The first part of the opinion seems to be building toward a ruling that the sentence was substantively unreasonable, but a footnote at the end of the majority opinion suggests that the same sentence might be reasonable if adequately explained.) 

Writing in dissent, Judge Siler in Vonner explains why he thinks the district court provided an adequate explanation for imposing a within-guideline sentence (and essentially blames the defense attorney for not asking the sentencing judge for a fuller explanation).  Judge Siler concludes with these sentiments: "The numerous cases by our court on the reasonableness of sentences post-Booker have confused attorneys and district courts alike.  Sentencing hearings will soon exceed trials in length, if we do not simplify the process."  Funny, I do not recall "simplify the process of depriving people of liberty" in the sentencing directive of 3553(a).  I guess I should read that provision more closely.

In US v. Sanders, No. 04-4540 (6th Cir. June 29, 2006) (available here), the issue is technically due process surrounding resentencing timelines.  The remarkable sentencing backdrop in Sanders concerns whether the defendant should have gotted a 37-month sentence or a 180-month sentence for two relatively minor firearm offenses.  And Judge Martin, this time writing in dissent, starts his opinion with this attention-grabbing paragraph:

In the district court's own words, "[t]he history of this case is indelibly etched in the court's memory." This case too will forever be etched in my mind as one of the most fundamentally unfair results that I have ever witnessed in thirty-plus years as a judge.

UPDATE: How Appealing has also taken not of Judge Martin's notable dissent in Sanders and he also quotes the extraordinary closing paragraph from the dissent here.

June 29, 2006 at 11:15 AM | Permalink

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