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August 30, 2004

Back to School, Blakely style

As indicated here, classes at OSU Moritz College of Law have been underway for nearly two weeks now. But with the coming of Labor Day marking "back to school" realities for everyone, I cannot resist the urge to reflect here on the amazing summer developments in the field of sentencing law and policy.

Obviously, the biggest sentencing story of the summer was Blakely, and the amazing post-Blakely events highlight the incredible power that the Supreme Court has to transform legal realities and policy discussions. (Dahlia Lithwick, also in end-of-summer mode, makes a similar point in a much more playful way in this NY Times Op-ed.) And though the Supreme Court Justices decided not to cut short their summer break to hear early the follow-up cases of Booker and Fanfan, I suspect around the High Court the last few months might still be called "the summer of Blakely." Helpfully, this thoughtful article from The Great Falls Tribune provides a useful overview of why it has been a Blakely summer for all other federal courts.

Yet, as a few clicks on my Topical Archive reveals, there have been many other significant and noteworthy sentencing law and policy developments this summer. Important legal and policy debates over the death penalty never abate (some details here), and an interesting shaming case highlighted a summer of re-thinking of our society's traditional and heavy reliance on incarceration (some details here and here).

Although we did not learn in kindergarten all we really need to know about Blakely, Chief District Judge Donald Molloy of the District of Montana highlights in the article linked above that Blakely is so interesting (at least to me) because, in one way or another, the case and its aftermath implicate so many of the fundamental legal issues we all studied in law school. Just my posts this weekend on Blakely's formalism and possible extension reinforce this point.

Finally, the teacher and academic in me wishes I could require everyone in the sentencing field to write an essay on "What I did this summer." (Though perhaps in all the courtrooms postponing sentencing the essay would be entitled "What I didn't do this summer.") In this vein, I was excited to see this recent memorandum from the Judicial Conference's Criminal Law Committee sounding like my high school math teacher by encouraging all courts to "show their work."

August 30, 2004 at 08:25 AM | Permalink

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