« MVRA meets ERISA in the Ninth Circuit | Main | A informed suggestion that FSG for white-collar offenses are presumptively unreasonable »

February 22, 2007

A fascinating (and funky) Sixth Circuit reasonableness ruling

The Sixth Circuit today in US v. Funk, No. No. 05-3708 (6th Cir. Feb. 22, 2007) (available here), issued an interesting — and perhaps now suspect — ruling reversing as unreasonable a sentence that turned on the district judge's decision not to apply the career offender guideline.  In a detailed opinion, which reprints the district court's extended justification for its sentencing decision, the Sixth Circuit concludes "the district court erred in mitigating Funk's sentence on the basis of an impermissible sentencing factor, namely, the court's disagreement with Congress's policy decisions as implemented by the Sentencing Commission in the career offender provisions, and by failing adequately to justify its substantial deviation from the applicable guidelines range."

I find the Sixth Circuit's ruling in Funk troublesome in part because it relies very heavily on the guidelines (and barely mentions other 3553(a) factors) when deciding that Funk's sentence is unreasonable.  That said, I can understand why, in light of some existing circuit precedents, the Sixth Circuit was put off by the district court's decision to disregard the applicable career offender enhancement. 

For even more intrigue, consider that the Government in the recent Rita argument suggested that it is "necessary for [a district] court to have the legal freedom to be able to disagree with what the Sentencing Commission said." (transcript at p. 35).  In light of that (official?) concession — and the fact that the career offender guideline is a Commission creation, not a statutory mandate — I cannot help but feel a bit funky about how the Sixth Circuit brought in the Funk.

February 22, 2007 at 05:01 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e200d834e64e4d53ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A fascinating (and funky) Sixth Circuit reasonableness ruling:

Comments

The Sixth Circuit in Funk has given elevated status to one of the 3553(a) factors (the Guidelines) over all the others. The Guidelines now serve as a trump over the other factors, i.e. if you do not do what the Guidelines say, the sentence is unreasonable. Although purporting to give deference to Congress' intent with regard to the career offender provisions of the Guidelines, the Sixth Circuit ignores Congress' directive that the listed factors in 3553(a) must all serve the parsimony provision of 3553(a) that a district court's job is to impose a sentence that is "sufficient, but not greater than necessary" to achieve the sentencing goals. This is effectively mandatory Guidelines, which Booker supposedly declared unconstitutional.

During the arguments in Rita, Justice Scalia said that a district court,"can simply disagree with the basic reasons of the [sentencing] commission, can simply disagree with the fact that the commission considers white collar crime, for example, something that should justify incarceration." This is what Funk says a district court can NOT do. This district judge found in Funk that 150 months was sufficient to achieve the aims of the sentencing act, and that a sentence in the guidelines range of 262-327 was greater than necessary. This would appear to be exactly what Booker instructs a district court to do (and how Justice Scalia, at least, envisions it working). The Sixth Circuit, however, continues to bravely march forward into the past.

Posted by: Sumter L. Camp | Feb 23, 2007 10:27:02 AM

I am a Psychiatric Nurse with a Certificate in Gerontology, interested in the growing population of Seniors in prisons. I am currently hired as a consultant for Seniors Mental Health. I also am aware of increasing admissions of the elderly with newly committed crimes. I would like to see a change in facility in addressing their changing care needs, also considering the degree of threat. Should there be a new trend, in developing and or utilizing suitable alternate settings...I would be interested in working with this population. Any ideas as to what courses will improve my knowledge and skill set..in order to potentially improve my odds of being a successful candidate in application?

Posted by: basketball nike shoes | Nov 29, 2010 2:52:51 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB