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September 12, 2008

Eleventh Circuit faults district judge for failing to explain denial of crack reduction motion

A helpful reader altered me to a decision from the Eleventh Circuit which, though unpublished, is a significant story in the on-going effort to implement retroactively the new federal crack guidelines.  In US v. Johnson, No. 08-11415 (11th Cir. Sept. 12, 2008) (available here), the panel vacates and remands for further consideration when the district court failed to explain its denial of a sentence reduction.  Here is how the opinion starts and ends:

Sean Johnson, a federal prisoner convicted of a crack cocaine offense, appeals the district court’s denial of his 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) motion for reduction of sentence based on an amendment to the Sentencing Guidelines that lowered the base offense levels applicable to crack cocaine.  The Government did not file a response to Johnson’s motion in the district court, and the district court’s order denying Johnson’s motion stated that it had “carefully reviewed said Motion and the entire court file” and was “otherwise fully advised in the premises.”  The district court did not otherwise explain its ruling.  Johnson asserts the district court abused its discretion because the basis for the denial cannot be clearly discerned, thus, effective appellate review is not possible....

The district court’s order denying Johnson’s motion stated that it had “carefully reviewed said Motion and the entire court file” and was “otherwise fully advised in the premises.”  The district court did not otherwise explain its ruling.  Accordingly, the record does not demonstrate the district court took the pertinent factors into account in denying Johnson’s motion.  Accordingly, we vacate the district court’s order denying Johnson’s motion for reduction of sentence and remand for further consideration and explanation.

September 12, 2008 at 04:53 PM | Permalink

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