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February 7, 2008

Today's Sixth Circuit must-read on reasonableness

I'll have to read all the analysis before commenting, but How Appealing provides the basics on the latest Sixth Circuit reasoned discussion of reasonableness:

En banc Sixth Circuit issues decision addressing "reasonableness" review of criminal sentence imposed under federal Sentencing Guidelines: The court splits 9-6 over the outcome, and one of the three dissenting opinions cites U.S. District Judge Richard G. Kopf's blog-based "top ten" list.

UPDATE:  All four opinion in Vonner are amazing, and I am sort of at a loss for fitting commentary — except to say I am proud of all the judges who wrote opinions and took the time to work through all the challenges that Booker and its progeny present for lower courts.  Against this backdrop, the final paragraph of the majority opinion is especially worth spotlighting:

Since Booker, the Supreme Court has handed down three cases about appellate review of challenges to the lengths of criminal sentences and the processes for determining them. See Rita, 127 S. Ct. at 2470; Gall, 128 S. Ct. at 602; Kimbrough v. United States, 128 S. Ct. 558, 576 (2007). One theme runs through all three cases: Booker empowered district courts, not appellate courts and not the Sentencing Commission.  Talk of presumptions, plain error and procedural and substantive rules of review means nothing if it does not account for the central reality that Booker breathes life into the authority of district court judges to engage in individualized sentencing within reason in applying the § 3553(a) factors to the criminal defendants that come before them. If there is a pattern that emerges from Rita, Gall and Kimbrough, it is that the district court judges were vindicated in all three cases, and a court of appeals was affirmed just once — and that of course was when it deferred to the on-the-scene judgment of the district court.  Our affirmance in today’s case respects the central lesson from these decisions — that district courts have considerable discretion in this area and thus deserve the benefit of the doubt when we review their sentences and the reasons given for them.

February 7, 2008 at 10:19 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Shocking review of voting pattern: All judges in minority are Carter/Clinton appointees while majority are all Reagan/Bush / W. It's so refreshing to see our appellate courts are not the least bit affected by political considerations. Next time I hear some conservative tell me how principled Republican appointees are compared to their democratic colleagues, I'll point them to this opinion.

Posted by: | Feb 7, 2008 4:05:55 PM

Any comments yet Doug?

Posted by: reader | Feb 7, 2008 10:03:03 PM

A significant number of en banc decisions, involving criminal law and procedure, from the Sixth Circuit exhibit this same voting pattern.

Posted by: KAY | Feb 8, 2008 9:21:25 AM

Maybe this is what Judge Martin had in mind when he said: "[A]s is not unusual in this Circuit, the majority has sidestepped the true issue on appeal and applied an overly burdensome standard of review that no defendant will ever be able to be meet."

Posted by: Hugh Kaplan | Feb 8, 2008 12:28:50 PM

Its a pity that our courts are directly influenced by government. Whats happend to justice when you cant rely on your own country to enforce the law.

Posted by: Stephen ( I have The Secret Do You? ) | Feb 8, 2008 3:33:38 PM

Strange that Prof. B still hasn't commented on this case, but this 5th Circuit blog has an interesting run down of the decision: http://circuit5.blogspot.com/2008/02/interesting-sixth-circuit-en-banc.html

Posted by: Reader | Feb 8, 2008 4:52:25 PM

It is not so strange that Doug has not written a comment about Vonner. Its not in Doug's best interest to get into a pissing match with fellow Columbusite, part time OSU prof and full-time Sixth Circuit Judge Jeff Sutton. Who, by the way authored Vonner. But that is my opinion. Maybe Doug won't censor this posting and will finally give an analysis of Vonner.

Posted by: why reader? | Feb 9, 2008 9:21:05 PM

For all of the majority's bluster that "the central reality that Booker breathes life into the authority of district court judges to engage in individualized sentencing within reason in applying the § 3553(a) factors to the criminal defendants that come before them" , the reality is that the majority opinion permits district judges to give essentially a one-sentence explanation for sending a person to prison for hundreds of months. That's an "individualized sentencing" decision applying the 3553a factors? Hardly.

The majority opinion is a twisted joke. To close with that language after blessing the terrible sentencing hearing held in this case is a joke.

Posted by: reader | Feb 10, 2008 10:09:14 AM

Good post, I like it very much! I would like to leave a comment, because it gives more bloggers who participate and the opportunity to perhaps learn from each other.

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