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September 18, 2013

Gearing up for Senate hearing on "Reevaluating the Effectiveness of Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentences"

In just a few hours, on Tuesday September 18, 2013 at 10am, as detailed at this official webpage, there will be Hearing before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary on “ “Reevaluating the Effectiveness of Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentences." Here is the official agenda/hearing list:

Panel I

Panel II

I am expecting and hoping that there will be written testimony from some or all of these witnesses posted via the Senate website within the few hours, and I am planning to watch the webcast of the hearing (and perhaps even live-blog some of it here).

Though I expect lots of interesting discussion in this hearing, I am surprised and a bit disappointed that there is no Department of Justice representative. Also, the absence of anyone from the U.S. Sentencing Commission is also significant. But perhaps these institutions, as well as others, may be submitting written testimony as the debate over federal mandatory minimum sentencing reform kicks into another gear.

Not suprisingly, the folks at FAMM are already all geared up for today's events inside the beltway, as showcased here at FAMM's website.

Just a few recent and older related posts:

UPDATE:  Sure enough, not long after finishing this post I received an e-mail with links to this news release titled "Sentencing Commission Issues Statement For Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing On Federal Mandatory Minimum Penalties: Calls for Congressional Action Including Reduction of Mandatory Minimum Penalties for Drug Offenses." The news release references this 13-page statement from the USSC Chair, Judge Patti B. Saris, which begins this way:

Chairman Leahy, Ranking Member Grassley, and distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for providing me with the opportunity to submit this statement on behalf of the United States Sentencing Commission about mandatory minimum sentences in the federal criminal justice system.

We are particularly pleased that the Judiciary Committee is addressing this vital issue that has been a key focus for the Commission for several years. The bipartisan seven-member Commission unanimously agrees that mandatory minimum sentences in their current form have led to unintended results, caused unwarranted disparity in sentencing, and contributed to the current crisis in the federal prison population and budget. We unanimously agree that statutory changes to address these problems are appropriate.

September 18, 2013 at 08:18 AM | Permalink


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By far the most important aspect of the Commission's statement is that it does NOT propose the elimination of MM's. It recommends lowering some of the minimums, slightly expanding the safety valve, and allowing the safety valve to apply to non-drug offenses.

This, of course, if a far cry from what Leahy/Paul would do -- allow any judge at any time for any reason he deems "appropriate" to ignore a mandatory minimum (in other words, effectively to repeal every mandatory minimum in federal law, since none of them would be "mandatory" anymore).

It is thus even more noteworthy how similar it is to Holder's August 12 ABA speech, which ALSO very conspicuously did NOT call for an end to MM's.

I congratulate the Commission for taking a step back from the awful to embrace the merely bad.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 18, 2013 10:28:18 AM

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