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August 23, 2006

Second Circuit discusses fast-track disparities

In a detailed and thoughtful opinion, the Second Circuit in US v. Mejia, No. 05-3902 (2d Cir. Aug. 22, 2006) (available here), essentially declares that fast-track disparities are "warranted" by holding that "a district court's refusal to adjust a sentence to compensate for the absence of a fast-track program does not make a sentence unreasonable."  Notably, the decision does not conclusively address whether it might be permissible for a district court to choose to adjust a sentence to compensate for the absence of a fast-track program.

In speaking about the development of fast-track sentence discounts, the Mejia opinion makes these intriguing observations:

Thirteen of the 94 federal districts have "early disposition" or "fast-track" programs for illegal reentry cases: Arizona; California (Central, Southern, Eastern and Northern districts); Idaho; Nebraska; New Mexico; North Dakota; Oregon; Texas (Southern and Western districts); and the Western District of Washington.  Mejia's brief includes a chart calculating the (abbreviated) sentencing ranges that would have been applicable in the fast-track districts.

The record does not reflect whether the Southern District of New York could qualify for a fast-track program or why qualification has not been sought (or if sought, not granted). The data in the record, which are incomplete, indicate that the Southern District of New York has more than twice the number of illegal reentry cases as the districts of Idaho and Nebraska, and more than four times the number as the districts of North Dakota and Western Washington.  Of course, various prosecutorial offices may differ as to the number and deployment of lawyers, the setting of priorities, and the press of other business.

Critically, the Second Circuit's review of fast-track districts in Mejiais a bit dated in light of the recent news, discussed here, that perhaps five or more districts have been approved for fast-track programs by the Attorney General.  But, because the Justice Department is not forthcoming about exactly how and where fast-track programs are authorized and how they operate, I do not know if some New York districts might now have fast-track programs in the works.

August 23, 2006 at 05:23 AM | Permalink

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