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November 15, 2006

Key questions for USSC: Now what...?

I suppose I should wait more than a day after the US Sentencing Commission's crack hearing (details here and here and here) to ponder the Commission's next moves.  But, with so many on-going and dynamic federal sentencing stories, I cannot resist speculating about the USSC's agenda and priorities on many fronts.

1.  Now what on the cocaine guidelines?  In the run up to the latest USSC crack hearing, I was hopeful (but certainly not optimistic) that the Justice Department would put forward a proposal that focused on justice and not just toughness.  But, sadly, it seems DOJ continues to support the status quo, which could make the USSC afraid to take the lead on reforming the 100:1 ratio.  I fear we are may see just another report come from the latest round of crack/powder sentencing discussions.

2.  Now what on guideline reforms?  As noted here, earlier this month the USSC staff conducted a set of exciting roundtables to discuss ways to simplify the guidelines and to improve the criminal history rules.  The USSC generally proposes new amendments in January, so there is a lot to do in a little time if it hopes to do something really consequential.  At the very least, I am hoping the USSC this amendment cycle will at least acknowledge Booker.  Speaking of Booker...

3.  Now what on post-Booker data?  When there was still Booker fix buzz, the USSC did a great job producing real-time data on how Booker was affecting (or not affecting) federal sentencing outcomes.  But Booker fix buzz has died (and seems unlikely in the new Congress), and real-time data from the Commission has been in short supply the last six months.  And we are still without a serious a batch of post-Booker appeals data and analysis from the Commission.  Speaking of appeals...

4.  Now what in light of Claiborne and Rita?  There are many reasons to believe (hope? fear?) that the Supreme Court will send another major shock-wave through federal sentencing with its decisions in Claiborne and Rita, the two Booker reasonableness cases to be argued in February.  Given the impact Claiborne and Rita could have on the entire system, the USSC might be wise to forgo any guideline amendments this year in order to focus on producing more post-Booker data and analysis to aid the work of both the Supreme Court and the new Congress.

November 15, 2006 at 11:11 AM | Permalink

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http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1115/p09s02-coop.html?s=hns

This links to a Christian Science Monitor article about crack sentencing. I am technologically challenged (and our server is too, at the moment)so can't figure out a better way to send the link.

Posted by: Teri Carns | Nov 15, 2006 1:57:02 PM

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