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October 8, 2007

Another notable SCOTUS sentencing week

Even though shortened by the observance of Columbus Day, this week brings the Supreme Court more sentencing issues.  On Tuesday, the Court will hear oral argument in Watson v. United States (06-571).  The previews provided by this article in the Christian Science Monitor and this summary at the SCOTUSwiki spotlight that the case centers on the application of a surprisingly common federal sentencing enhancement based on bartering guns for drugs.

On Wednesday, the Court will hear oral argument in Medellin v. Texas (06-984). The previews provided by these pieces assembled at How Appealing and this summary at the SCOTUSwiki spotlight that this case creates strange bedfellows in the intersection of international law and the death penalty.

In addition, Tuesday morning could also bring a few new cert grants.  Even without any new criminal cases, this Term is shaping up to be marked by major sentencing rulings.  A couple more major grants and we might have the sentencing Term of the century (which is saying a lot even though the century is not yet that old).

Some related posts:

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Comments

Can some one tell when will the Supreme Court rule on the Gall case?

Posted by: EJ | Oct 8, 2007 8:43:27 PM

EJ~
Gall is likely to be a close case meaning that it will be several months before it is released. Also, because this is a pet issue of Justices Scalia, Stevens, Breyer and Kennedy, any or all of them are likely to file concurrences/ dissents. That will potentially delay the announcement even longer. In short my guess (and I'm curious what else other people think) is that the decision will come down in March or April.

Posted by: da_2_b | Oct 8, 2007 10:08:24 PM

Gall is already written -- remember, Claiborne (which presented the same issue) died what was likely only hours before his case was decided. For all we know, Gall could be issued tomorrow. Now ... whether they wait to release Gall and Kimbrough on the same day is another consideration. I tend to think they will. But still, Booker (which was over 100 pages -- 2 majority opinions and 4 dissents) only took until January to issue, after being argued first that term. I seriously doubt that it will be March or April for Kimbrough. My guess is the first day of the December session for both of them.

Posted by: | Oct 8, 2007 11:20:09 PM

Thanks, I actually thought it would be decided tomorrow. My understanding is that under Rita the Supreme Court said that a sentence within the guidelines cannot be presumed to be unreasanable, and by that logic a sentence outside of the guidelines also cannot be presumed to be unreasanable, so in that sense common sense dictate a ruling in favor of Gall. My only concer is the reasonableness test.

Posted by: EJ | Oct 9, 2007 12:37:23 AM

EJ,

Rita didn't say that w/in GL sentences can't be presumed to be unreasonable, it said that they _can_ be presumed to be _reasonable_ (though I'm sure SCOTUS would endorse the first part too). The real issue in Gall is not whether a variance sentence can be presumed unreasonable (everyone agrees that at least on an overt level, they can't), but what "not presumed unreasonable" means. That is, can an appellate court require a variance sentence to have a heightened standard of justification the further from the Guidelines it gets, and what is the precise definition of "reasonableness review," anyway?

I side with Anon. 11:20... I think the outcome has largely already been determined. I'd also point out that the issues in Kimbrough were also raised in Claiborne, so those have likely already been well considered, too. What that means for an issuance date, though, is unclear. I think the general rule is "whenever they're dang-well ready."

Posted by: JP Davis | Oct 9, 2007 1:46:59 PM

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