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May 31, 2007

A big federal sentencing day for so many reasons

I am still reeling from the reality that Mario Claiborne's below-guideline sentence may have, in some sad ironic cosmic way, resulted in his demise and the demise of his case before the Supreme Court (basics here and here).  But federal sentencing fans cannot take too long to mourn before having to get back to thinking about what Booker means for various other defendant's fates.

Specifically, today I see noteworthy sentencing opinions from the 1st, 6th, 10th and 11th Circuits, and I hope to have time before too long to comment at length at the particularly notable and important work from Judge Merritt in dissent in the Sixth Circuit's Eversole case and from Judge McConnell for a Tenth Circuit panel in Allen.

In addition, as detailed in this AP report and this TalkLeft post, that Lewis Libby's lawyers has, unsurprisingly, arguing for their man to only be sentenced to probation.

So, dear readers, which of these stories are of the greatest interest?  Which should I focus on in the wee hours when I am not distracted by notable local events during the day?

May 31, 2007 at 09:40 PM | Permalink


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My vote: the McConnell and Merritt opinions.

Posted by: Jill Wichlens | May 31, 2007 10:16:37 PM

Judge McConnell's opinion. At least on first skim, his legal analysis starts out very good and gets better as it goes. If further reasons were needed: (1) unlike Merritt's dissent McConnell's opinion is actually law; (2) along the way he holds that the Department of Precrime in MINORITY REPORT was unconstitutional; and (3) oh yeah, he also cites some guy named Berman.

Posted by: Patentlaw | May 31, 2007 10:46:50 PM

True, Merritt's dissent isn't the law. But it should be.

Posted by: | May 31, 2007 11:17:34 PM

I may be a bit biased, but my vote is definitely McConnell's opinion. (My opinion would probably be different if Merritt's dissent was law). There are too many good passages, but this quote says it all:

But we should not forget that the purpose of Booker was not to liberate sentencing courts from statutory constraints. It was to bring our sentencing system closer to the norms of the Sixth Amendment.

This is the biggest problem in the post-Booker world. All too often, judges forget that Booker was about the Sixth Amendment. Allen is a breath of fresh air that actually recognizes the principles underlying Blakely and Booker.

And to top it off, there's a reference to Minority Report.

Posted by: DEJ | Jun 1, 2007 12:02:14 AM

The "reality" is not that Mario Claiborne was murdered because his sentence was too short. Claiborne was, it appears, at the wrong place at the wrong time when someone else committed a property crime, and the property owner unlawfully resorted to gunfire.

The notion that we do the poor a favor by incarcerating them is not the lesson of young Mr. Claiborne's tragedy. The judge correctly and courageously entered a sentence tailored to helping him meet a fundamental that a lengthier prison term would preclude. Southern farmers continue to blink at the violence and even peonage imposed on migrant labor camps by telling themselves the poorly educated and impoverished workers are better off under the thumb of abusive crew leaders than they are struggling to make their own lives off the labor camp. The information about Claiborne's death thus far does not disprove the reality that Claiborne lived a better and more rehabilitated life outside prison than he could have hoped to achieve by further withering his soul and outlook in a federal prison for a lengthier sentence.

Posted by: ld | Jun 1, 2007 12:57:33 PM

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