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October 27, 2009

Sixth Circuit officially joins bulk of other circuits declaring limits on 3582(c) sentence modifications

The Sixth Circuit today describes effectively the current state of the circuit law concerning sentence modifications pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) in US v. Washington, No. 09-5110 (6th Cir. Oct. 27, 2009) (available here).  Here is how the majority opinion in Washington starts:

Defendant Errol Eugene Washington appeals the district court’s order denying, in part, his motion to reduce and modify his otherwise valid sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).  Washington’s appeal presents an issue of first impression in our circuit: whether the district court, in modifying a sentence pursuant to § 3582(c)(2), has authority under United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), to reduce a sentence beyond the retroactive United States Sentencing Guidelines amendment range.  For the reasons explained below, we hold that the district court does not have such authority and therefore affirm the judgment of the district court.

For some reason that she fails to explain, Judge Moore does not join the majority opinion in Washington and just concurs separately.

October 27, 2009 at 09:53 AM | Permalink

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Comments

I don't really disagree with the conclusion here, but Judge Griffin's opinion style is brutal to read. I think the Volokh site had one recently, where he also dropped the same enormous blockquote about statutory interpretation from a Title VII case that I now see he wrote himself. Bizarre. I agree that statutory interpretation is messy in the courts, but his lengthy quoting of platitudes about hewing to the words is both correct but also basically meaningless when it comes to applying these things. And this whole opinion is just one long block quote and parenthetical after another. Griffin and his clerks clearly didn't go to the Kozinski or Easterbrook schools of opinion drafting:

http://www.lawprose.org/interviews/judges_lawyers_writers_on_writing.php?vid=kozinski&vidtitle=Hon._Alex_Kozinski_On_Overquoting

http://www.lawprose.org/interviews/judges_lawyers_writers_on_writing.php?vid=easterbrook_reading_journalism&vidtitle=Hon._Frank_H._Easterbrook_On_Reading_Journalism

Regarding the merits, I agree that the 3582 isn't covered by the Blakely/Booker rule because those proceedings are limited and not complete resentencings, and in any event only could decrease the already-imposed sentence. Maybe things would be different had Harris gone the other way, but, at least for now, that's water under the bridge. But Griffin's opinion is a slog to read.

Posted by: Greg | Oct 27, 2009 11:43:25 AM

So much for the opinion being a “slog” to read, I used it in one of my crim pro classes this summer. Justice Sotomayor’s opinion follows Judge Griffin’s analysis (and language) to the letter. The general consensus here was that Griffin’s opinion was well-written and provided an excellent summary and analysis of the current law, Dillon confirms that.

Posted by: Tom | Jun 28, 2010 5:24:31 PM

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