« Texas finally executes murderer who had looooong stay on death row | Main | In the Big Easy at USSC conference to talk about whether departures are going to be easier »

June 16, 2010

"Judges Give Thumbs Down to Crack, Pot, Porn Mandatory Minimums"

The title of this post is the headline of this effective article by Marcia Coyle in today's National Law Journal reporting on some of the highlights of the US Sentencing Commission's recently released results from a survey of federal district judges about their views on post-Booker sentencing realities.  Here is how the piece begins:

Mandatory minimum sentences are too high, restitution for crime victims should be available in all cases, and judge-specific data on sentencing should not be reported, according to a survey of more than 600 federal trial judges.

From January through March of this year, the U.S. Sentencing Commission for the first time questioned federal judges on their views about sentencing under the advisory guidelines system in effect since 2005. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the mandatory sentencing guideline system in its 2005 ruling U.S. v. Booker.

The survey, released last week, drew responses from 639 of the 942 judges to whom it was sent -- a 67.8 percent response rate. The 639 judges who responded had sentenced 116,183 offenders, or 79 percent of those sentenced during fiscal 2008 and 2009.

Sixty-two percent of the judges said the mandatory minimums that they were required to impose were too high, particularly for crack cocaine (76 percent), receipt of child pornography (71 percent) and marijuana (54 percent). However, strong majorities believed the sentencing guideline ranges for most federal offenses were appropriate, with the exception again of those for crack cocaine, marijuana, and the possession and receipt of child pornography, which they said were too high.

When asked to choose among sentencing systems without guidelines, with mandatory guidelines, with advisory guidelines or with mandatory guidelines that conform with the Sixth Amendment, 75 percent of the responding judges chose the current system of advisory guidelines....

Among the survey's other findings, 54 percent agreed somewhat or strongly that pre-sentence reports should be required to include information that a crime victim wants included. But 68 percent said victims should not have the opportunity to comment on the pre-sentence report before sentencing. Sixty-six percent agreed somewhat or strongly that courts should have the authority to order restitution for victims in all cases.

June 16, 2010 at 09:34 AM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e20133f1488f72970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "Judges Give Thumbs Down to Crack, Pot, Porn Mandatory Minimums":

Comments

The problem I have with the porn sentencing is it is based on the supposition that people receiving it contribute some pecuniary motivation to the producers. Most pornography these days is downloaded off peer-to-peer networks, giving no financial motivation or even knowledge of consumption to the producers (or distributors). It's nothing like drugs where there is a physical product. Yes, there are people that do pay for it, and they should be punished, but the vast majority do not.

Posted by: NickS | Jun 16, 2010 11:57:52 AM

The judges' strong opposition to making available judge-specific data is troubling. Judges are public officials, and the fact that federal judges have lifetime appointments does not mean that their public actions, i.e., imposition of criminal sentences, should not be transparent. This data easily accessible to the public, which is served by the judiciary.

Posted by: Open Government | Jun 16, 2010 10:41:04 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB