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October 29, 2005

Notable fast-track decision in the 1st Circuit

Thanks to Appellate Law & Practice, I see that while I was in transit to Monterey the First Circuit had a  big sentencing day on Friday.  AL&P has short accounts here and here of two smaller decisions, and this lengthy account of the noteworthy ruling in US v. Martinez-Flores, No. 04-2681 (1st Cir. Oct. 28, 2005) (available here).

Martinez-Flores is an interesting constitutional challenge to the new fast-track sentencing provisions created by one part of the Feeney Amendment (aka the PROTECT Act).  The opening paragraph of Martinez-Flores provides the highlights:

This appeal, from a criminal sentence imposed on an alien who illegally reentered the United States, requires that we address a question of first impression: does the congressional endorsement of downward sentencing departures in conjunction with "fast-track" case processing violate the nondelegation doctrine?  We answer the question in the negative; separately, we reject the defendant's request for a Booker remand on grounds of disparity in sentencing between defendants in fast-track jurisdictions and others.

The nondelegation discussion in Martinez-Flores will likely be of greatest interest to constitutional law buffs, but the Booker discussion will likely be of greatest interest to sentencing fans.  Importantly, the decision in Martinez-Flores ultimately rests its decision to affirm the defendant's sentence on plain error grounds and it does not definitively speak to the issue of a Booker variance on fast-track disparity grounds.  But the decision closes with this important (and telling?) footnote:

It is arguable that even post-Booker, it would never be reasonable to depart downward based on disparities between fast-track and non-fast-track jurisdictions given Congress' clear (if implied) statement in the PROTECT Act provision that such disparities are acceptable. See United States v. Perez-Chavez, No. 2:05-CR-00003PGC, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9252, at *18-*23 (C.D. Utah May 16, 2005) (holding, in light of the PROTECT Act provision, that "Congress has concluded that the advantages stemming from fast-track programs outweigh their disadvantages, and that any disparity that results from fast-track programs is not 'unwarranted'").  Because we resolve the question in this case on Booker plain-error grounds, we need not reach that or any other issue of reasonableness.

October 29, 2005 at 09:12 PM | Permalink


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