October 23, 2007
Rooting for the Sixth Circuit to take acquitted conduct en banc in White
As noted in this prior post, a Sixth Circuit panel earlier this month indicated that all three members would strongly recommend" en banc review of the "important question" of "whether the continuing use of acquitted conduct as a sentencing enhancement violates United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005)." This quoted language comes from the panel's per curiam ruling in US v. White, No. 05-6596 (6th Cir. Oct. 5, 2007) (available here). I believe an en banc petition was filed last week in White, so now I am eagerly awaiting word on whether the White panel has convinced the majority of the Sixth Circuit to take up the acquitted conduct issue.
As regular readers know (and as posts linked below highlight), I find acquitted conduct enhancements especially troublesome in the wake of Blakely and Booker. Moreover, Justice Scalia's concurring opinion in Rita indicates that some within-guideline sentences depending too much on judicially found facts would trigger "as-applied" Sixth Amendment concerns even within an advisory guideline scheme. Justice Scalia's discussion of "as-applied Sixth Amendment challenges" in Rita provides further support for a constitutional attack on use of acquitted conduct as a sentencing enhancement.
Further, a number of district court opinions suggest that sentencing courts may be taking a variety of post-Booker approaches to the consideration of acquitted conduct sentencing enhancements. For example, a terrific district court opinion from the Eastern District of Virginia in Ibagna (discussed here) makes a strong case for why acquitted conduct should no longer be used at sentencing now that Booker mandates that the provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) guide sentencing decision-making. And, within the Sixth Circuit, another terrific district court opinion from the Southern District of Ohio in Coleman (discussed here) reaches a distinct conclusion about how to deal with acquitted conduct enhancements after Booker.
In short, in addition to a core constitutional issue, acquitted conduct enhancements after Booker raise interesting and important statutory interpretation and reasonableness review issues as well. Because the Sixth Circuit has been among the most thoughtful and nuanced appellate courts trying to sort through Booker fall-out, I am very hopeful it will be the first circuit to assess these issues directly through an en banc proceeding.
Some related posts:
- Will the Sixth Circuit consider acquitted conduct enhancements en banc?
- Strong commentary on acquitted conduct sentencing
- A terrific district court opinion on acquitted conduct
- New (or renewed) ideas and arguments suggested by Rita
- Sincere questions about acquitted conduct sentencing
October 23, 2007 at 02:40 PM | Permalink
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Has the Sentencing Commission conceded any concerns about the continued use of acquitted conduct, as they have done for the 100:1 crack-cocaine ratio?
Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Oct 23, 2007 3:49:20 PM
To my knowledge, the USSC has never done a serious study of acquitted conduct sentencing enhancements. However, before Watts was decided, the USSC asked for public comment on a set of proposed new guidelines rules that might limit the impact of acquitted conduct. But, once Watts was decided, the USSC seemed to abandon the project.
Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 23, 2007 9:50:47 PM