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August 26, 2005

On appeals and fast-track from the 1st Circuit

As noted here, I have not been able to keep up with all the late week sentencing action from the federal circuits.  But, thanks to this post at Appellate Law & Practice, I did notice an interesting and potentially important decision by the First Circuit in US v. Melendez-Torres, No. 04-1914 (1st Cir. Aug. 25, 2005) (available here).

Melendez-Torres covers too much ground to quickly summarize (especially on a late Friday afternoon), but its discussion of appellate review and fast-track programs are especially noteworthy.  First, on appellate review, the court makes this (suspect?) assertion:

Pursuant to § 3742(a), this Court therefore continues to possess the same jurisdiction to review Guidelines sentences as before Booker, and accordingly, also still lacks jurisdiction to review a sentencing court's refusal to depart downward based on its belief that the defendant's circumstances fail to warrant such departure....

In light of the new reasonableness standard of review that Booker creates, I am not certain this "lack of jurisdiction" conclusion follows (and I fear this conclusion could possibly have an unexpected and harmful impact on defendants seeking post-Booker variances).

Second, on fast track, in the course of rejecting an equal protection challenge to the absence of a fast-track program in Maine, the court drops a footnote to "note that at least three circuits [before Booker] have held that 'where [sentencing] disparities arise from varying charging and plea-bargaining policies of the individual United States Attorneys,' it is inappropriate for a judge to grant a downward departure."  In light of the new emphasis on 3553(a) that Booker creates, I am not certain this point merits emphasis in the post-Booker world.

Whatever one thinks of the specifics of Melendez-Torres, for me it is just another example of a decision from a circuit court that will necessarily disappoint and worry those who hoped the circuit courts might fully appreciate and embrace the impact that Booker should have on federal sentencing realities.

August 26, 2005 at 05:37 PM | Permalink


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US v. Martinez-Flores, No. 04-2681. In this case, the court rejects a non-delegation argument to the fast-track guilty plea procedure.Although it goes against my better judgment, I will let you continue reading my interpretation of this case, if you [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 29, 2005 6:21:24 PM


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