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March 29, 2008

Examining some circuits' unreasonable efforts at reasonable review

A helpful reader called my attention to a new federal sentencing note (which will appear in the William & Mary Law Review this fall) now available here via SSRN.  The note critically examines the effects of Rita and Gall in the Sixth and Tenth Circuits; here is the abstract:

Paul Sedore pleaded guilty to two counts for defrauding the Internal Revenue Service, conspiracy to defraud the IRS and identity theft. Based only on the facts that Sedore admitted in his guilty plea and his criminal history, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines would have recommended 12 to 18 months in prison.  But based on the facts that the sentencing judge found, by a preponderance of the evidence, which Sedore did not admit and the jury did not find beyond a reasonable doubt, the Guidelines advised a range of 84 to 105 months.  The court sentenced Sedore to 84 months. Had another judge sentenced Sedore to 84 months without finding those additional facts, the court of appeals would likely reverse this hypothetical sentence as unreasonable.

The Sentencing Guidelines are hardly as advisory as the Supreme Court imagines.  In United States v. Booker, the Supreme Court tried and failed to establish an appellate standard of review of sentences that both promotes uniformity and does not violate the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial.  In Rita v. United States and Gall v. United States, the Court considered mechanisms that federal appellate courts use to enforce the Sentencing Guidelines, the presumption of reasonableness and proportionality review.  As in Booker, the Court tried and failed to rein in the courts' infringements on the jury trial right.  By closely examining the Sixth and Tenth Circuits, this Note demonstrates how the combination of the presumption of reasonableness, the double standard of procedural reasonableness, and proportionality review still violate the Sixth Amendment.  Short of Congressional overhaul, this Note argues that the Supreme Court should solve its inherently flawed Booker remedy by prohibiting substantive reasonableness review and requiring uniform sentencing explanations from district courts.

March 29, 2008 at 02:37 AM | Permalink

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