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April 30, 2013

US Sentencing Commission names new executive director

I am very pleased to report, as detailed in this official press release, that a former law school classmate of mine has now been named as the next staff director of the US Sentencing Commission.  (Apparently, the fact that Harvard Law School lacked any kind upper-level sentencing course in the early 1990s did not unduly retard the professional development of some of its students).  Here are the details:

The United States Sentencing Commission announced the appointment of Kenneth P. Cohen as its new Staff Director, succeeding Judith W. Sheon. Cohen has served as the Commission’s General Counsel since February 2007 and previously served as its Director of Legislative Affairs.  His appointment becomes effective on June 2, 2013....

Cohen graduated with highest distinction from the University of Virginia in 1988 and cum laude from the Harvard Law School in 1993.  Previously he served as a credit analyst for Chemical Bank in New York, and he was an associate at the Washington D.C. law firm of Covington & Burling from 1993 to 1997.  He also served at the Commissi on as an attorney advisor to then-commissioner Judge Deanell Tacha, and he served on detail as counsel to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter from 2005 to 2006.

The same press release also notes another notable recent new hire on the USSC: "The Commission also last month added Noah D. Bookbinder as Director of Legislative and Public Affairs.  Bookbinder previously served as Chief Counsel for Criminal Justice for the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he worked from 2005 to 2013, and as a Trial Attorney for the United States Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section from 1999 to 2005.   He graduated summa cum laude from Yale University in 1995 and with distinction from Stanford Law School in 1998 and served as a law clerk to United States District Judge Douglas Woodlock."

April 30, 2013 at 09:22 PM | Permalink


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Without knowing either of the appointees, I have to express the strongest objections to these appointments.

1) Their credentials imply 80 hours of study a week from childhood to very recently. That means they know nothing about nothing, have not experienced the street, and are naive victims of the criminal cult enterprise indoctrination that takes place in these institutions. They may have high IQ's, excellent memories for details they have read. However they also believe in the supernatural doctrines inculcated, this belief is evidenced by their grades. I use the term of art, dumbasses, for people with high IQ's, modern educations, who come to believe in supernatural garbage if an authority figure says they must.

2) They will not lower the crime rate, which is the purpose of the Commission. It is in utter failure.

3) No doubt they will favor coddling the criminal, except if a productive white male. Then they will pursue his assets.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 1, 2013 12:12:22 AM

SC, what is your basis for saying the purpose of the USSC is to lower crime rates?

Here is what the federal code says expressly on this front (via 28 USC 991(b)(1)):

The purposes of United States Sentencing Commission are to establish sentencing policies and practices for the Federal criminal justice system that—

(A) assure the meeting of the purposes of sentencing as set forth in section 3553 (a)(2) of title 18, United States Code;

(B) provide certainty and fairness in meeting the purposes of sentencing, avoiding unwarranted sentencing disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar criminal conduct while maintaining sufficient flexibility to permit individualized sentences when warranted by mitigating or aggravating factors not taken into account in the establishment of general sentencing practices; and

(C) reflect, to the extent practicable, advancement in knowledge of human behavior as it relates to the criminal justice process.

I suppose you could argue that a crime rate reduction mandate is implicit in the instructions of (A) and (C) above, but I think that would be a very strained reading of what Congress has expressly said to be the (many) purposes for the USSC.

Posted by: Doug B. | May 1, 2013 10:45:09 AM

Prof. Berman: You may have been a child in the 1970's and 1980's. Rampant criminality caused an outrage and calls for action. In the most successful achievement of the US lawyer profession of the 20th Century, the Congress passed, the "Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984." I am sincere in my admiration and congratulations to the profession for dropping the crime rate 40%. I am frustrated it has been scuttled after Booker.

The "Crime Control" Act was sponsored by Southern Democrat Strom Thurman. This is ironic. That Act was followed by an across the board drop in crime, including the murders of black males. So this racist cracker, segregationist, filibusterer, and distance educated lawyer (apprenticing to his lawyer father) saved more black people than anyone in history (over 50,000 not murdered in the past 25 years).

So the historical era of its enactment and the title of its parent legislation imply suppression is a goal.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 1, 2013 7:22:14 PM

Also, one cannot expect, nor even desire SC-style loving candor in statute drafting.

The unsaid, but plain and evident message of the legislation: we cannot trust judges to protect us, and will take their sentencing discretion away. We will replace it by arithmetic formulas. (Admission: I have never correctly calculated a sentence in any test question or practice exercise. I wonder if you have. I do not know if that is a problem in appellate advocacy.)

Judges reacted with anger and hurt feelings from the very beginning.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 1, 2013 7:31:32 PM

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