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June 24, 2005

Will DOJ make public its Booker data?

As discussed in this post from February, at the US Sentencing Commission's first big public hearing on Booker, US Attorney Robert McCampbell noted that the Justice Department "will be collecting data" on post-Booker sentencing.  And in AG Alberto Gonzales' speech advocating a Booker fix in the form of "the construction of a minimum guideline system" (basics here, commentary here and here and here and here), Gonzales seemed to reference this collected data in his statement that "the evidence the Department has seen since the Booker decision suggests an increasing disparity in sentences, and a drift toward lesser sentences."

Now that the AG is weighing in on the post-Booker policy debate, it would be especially valuable for policymakers and others if DOJ would make public the sentencing data it is collecting.  The US Sentencing Commission has done a great job updating its data on its Booker page, but the federal system would surely benefit from another data-driven perspective on how the post-Booker world is unfolding.  DOJ should also make public the way it is collecting data, since I have heard reports that the data-collection forms now being used internally by DOJ may not be ideal. 

As detailed in this post, US District Judge Gregory Presnell of the Middle District of Florida recently requested that the local US Attorney make available the information DOJ is collecting on post-Booker sentencings.  That request, available here, astutely explained why DOJ's data collection "should be transparent and available for public inspection."  Judge Presnell's request was rejected in a brief letter, available here, that did close by stating that DOJ is "considering periodically disclosing certain information we are generating from [Booker Sentencing] Reports."

In the wake of the Gonzales speech, now might be a very good time for DOJ to start a program of  post-Booker periodic disclosure.

June 24, 2005 at 02:05 PM | Permalink


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