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April 16, 2005

More additions for the (endless) sentencing reading list

Though I am still catching up with all of this month's legal developments (highlights here and here and here), my academic reading list continues to grow.  In addition to all the articles listed here and here, I am making time to read the following pieces appearing recently on SSRN:

In addition, Professor Susan Klein and Judge Morris Hoffman were both kind enough to send me their recent articles on Booker with posting permission. Professor Klein's article is entitled "The Return of Federal Judicial Discretion in Criminal Sentencing," and will be published in a symposium issue of the Valparaiso Law Review; Judge Hoffman's article is entitled "Booker, Pragmatism And The Moral Jury."  Both are terrific reads and are available below.

Download judge_morris_hoffman_on_booker.doc

UPDATE: I am hopeful, though not certain, that I have fixed technical problems with the Klein article now available here: Download prof_klein_on_booker.doc

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not plug once more my own contributions to this endless reading list: my "Reconceptualizing Sentencing" article, which is slated for publication in the next issue of the University of Chicago Legal Forum, is available at this post; my article "Beyond Blakely and Booker: Pondering Modern Sentencing Process," which is slated for publication in a coming issue of the Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, is available at this post.

April 16, 2005 in Booker and Fanfan Commentary | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sentencing world in warp speed

In last week's wrap-up post here, I noted that April started off just as crazed as March — which brought us major sentencing developments from state and federal courts and legislatures (summarized in posts linked here and here and here and here and here).  And after this week, which included House and US Sentencing Commission hearings and a stunning array of court rulings, I have concluded that the sentencing world is stuck in warp speed.  Below I have links to just some of the action whizzing by:






April 16, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Puzzled by Tennessee's Blakely waltz

The Tennessee Supreme Court's decision in Gomez (details here), which finds Blakely inapplicable to Tennessee's sentencing scheme, is remarkable for many reasons.  But its most remarkable feature is that the ruling seems to rest on a complete misunderstanding of Apprendi and Blakely.  In the words of a very knowledgeable lawyer who wrote to me about the opinion, "It's just dead wrong."

The majority in Gomez repeatedly emphasizes that Tennessee's sentencing provisions do "not mandate an increased sentence upon a judge's finding of an enhancement factor," slip op. at 26, to support its ruling that Blakely is inapplicable to Tennessee's sentencing scheme.  But an increased sentence was not mandated by the Washington guidelines at issue in Blakely or the New Jersey statute at issue in Apprendi or the federal statute at issue in Jones or the capital statute at issue in Ring.  Indeed, the constitutional relevance of merely exposing a defendant to a heightened punishment based on a judicial fact-finding, but still leaving it to the judge's discretion whether to impose the heightened punishment, was extensively briefed in Blakely itself.  And in footnote 8 of the Blakely opinion Justice Scalia asserts that it is immaterial for Sixth Amendment purposes "[w]hether the judicially determined facts require a sentence enhancement or merely allow it."

Given the Booker ruling and that fact that the pre-Booker federal guidelines did mandate increased sentences, perhaps the confusion in Gomez can be attributed to the confusing work of SCOTUS in Booker.  But, tellingly, the state of Tennessee in this Blakely litigation conceded that Blakely applied to Tennessee's sentencing system AND an august Task Force has worked hard on a legislative Blakely fix (details here) because everyone understood that Blakely applies to a sentencing system which merely authorizes, but does not mandate, longer sentences based on facts not found by a jury or admitted by the defendant.

Perhaps I am missing some hidden wisdom in Gomez, but my initial take is that the Tennessee Supreme Court just got it wrong.  And, as a result, we now can ponder the interesting questions of (1) whether the Supreme Court might ASAP grant cert. in Gomez or another case from Tennessee to clarify this issue, and (2) whether state supreme courts in California or Ohio or other states, eager to dodge Blakely, might adopt the "reasoning" of Gomez.

April 16, 2005 in Blakely in the States | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Judge Gertner speaks on acquitted conduct

As detailed in a powerful Wall Street Journal article last year (detailed here), the federal sentencing guidelines' relevant conduct rules have historically required judges to consider so-called "acquitted conduct" at sentencing, and the Supreme Court in its 1997 Watts decision declared this practice constitutionally sound.  But Blakely and Booker made Watts a questionable precedent, and today US District Judge Nancy Gertner continued to justify her place in my Sentencing Hall of Fame by exploring acquited conduct post-Booker through a decision in US v. Pimental, No. 99-10310-NG (D. Mass. Apr. 15, 2005)

In Pimental, which can be downloaded below, Judge Gertner discusses at length "the continued vitality of the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Watts, 519 U.S. 148 (1997), which upheld an increased sentence for the defendant based on acquitted conduct, in light of its recent decision in Booker."  Here are just a few highlights from a terrific opinion tackling very important issues:

United States v. Booker substantially undermines the continued vitality of United States v. Watts both by its logic and by its words.  It makes absolutely no sense to conclude that the Sixth Amendment is violated whenever facts essential to sentencing have been determined by a judge rather than a jury, Blakely v. Washington, 124 S.Ct. 2531, 2538 (2004), and also conclude that the fruits of the jury’s efforts can be ignored with impunity by the judge in sentencing....

Sentencing today — even post-Booker — is still profoundly influenced by the rules, namely the Guidelines. That is what the remedy opinion admonishes; that is what the post-Booker case law suggests.  It is, in effect, a hybrid regime — neither purely discretionary nor mandatory Guidelines. And that fact has certain consequences in terms of the significance of acquitted conduct, and more generally, the procedural protections at sentencing.

To consider acquitted conduct trivializes “legal guilt” or “legal innocence” — which is what a jury decides — in a way that is inconsistent with the tenor of the recent case law.... when a court considers acquitted conduct it is expressly considering facts that the jury verdict not only failed to authorize; it considers facts of which the jury expressly disapproved....

Even if Watts emerged unscathed from Booker, and a judge may consider all facts, including acquitted conduct, the standard of proof to be applied should be beyond a reasonable doubt.  As I noted above, we are in a hybrid regime, neither fish (totally indeterminate) nor fowl (totally mandatory.) Whether the Guidelines are presumptively reasonable, carefully considered, or something in between, they continue to play a critical role.  Certain facts like the amount of loss continue to assume inordinate importance in the sentencing outcome.  So long as they do, they should be tested by our highest standard of proof.

Download gertner_pimentalsentenmemo.pdf

April 16, 2005 in Booker in district courts | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

4th Circuit opines on Shepard and the prior conviction exception

On Friday in US v. Washington, No. 03-4867 (4th Cir. Apr. 15, 2005) (available here),the Fourth Circuit had an opportunity to discuss the Supreme Court's recent Shepard decision in the course of an appeal which raised issues concerning "the scope of the 'fact of a prior conviction' exception to the Sixth Amendment protections outlined in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and its progeny, including United States v. Booker, 125 S. Ct. 738 (2005)."

In a divided 2-1 opinion in Washington, the Fourth Circuit holds that because "the sentencing court relied on facts outside the indictment" of a prior offense which "involved more than the 'fact of a prior conviction' exempted by Apprendi from Sixth Amendment protection," it followed that "Washington's sentence was imposed in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights."  The majority in Washington stressed that the sentencing judge found facts about a prior offense, and concluded that Shepard indicated that such fact-finding about a prior conviction was constitutionally problematic.

In a lengthy dissent, Judge Luttig contends "district court's enhancement of Washington's sentence plainly fits within this exception to the rule of Apprendi. Contrary to the conclusion reached by the majority, the only facts that the district court relied upon for its determination that Washington's prior conviction was a crime of violence were those facts recited in the indictment underlying that conviction."

April 16, 2005 in Almendarez-Torres and the prior conviction exception, Booker in the Circuits, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 15, 2005

Third Circuit dicta fixed (to eliminate a typo)

Yesterday I noted here that the Third Circuit in its King decision dropped a footnote with (intriguing and questionable) Booker dicta indicating that post-Booker enhancements "must rely only upon conduct admitted by the defendant or found by the fact finder based upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt."   (In other words, the Third Circuit seemed to be adopting the remedy of the Booker remedial dissenters, as well as the remedy of the remedial majority.)

I was thus intrigued to see this order from the Third Circuit today amending that footnote, but the amendment merely fixed a typo (the absence of the word "doubt") and did not change the substance.  Thus, it appears the panel that dropped this footnote is comfortable with its substance.  Interesting.

April 15, 2005 in Booker in the Circuits | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tennessee dodges Blakely, so says divided state supreme court

This morning I speculated here, as a follow up to yesterday's major Washington Supreme Court ruling in Hughes about the application of Blakely, that we might be seeing some other state supreme court rulings on Blakely soon. Today the Tennessee State Supreme Court has made me look like a genius by releasing a major Blakely ruling which holds, in a split 3-2 decision, that Tennessee's criminal sentencing laws do not violate the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a jury trial and were not affected by Blakely and Booker.

The decision is Tennessee v. Gomez and Londono, and you can access the majority opinion here and the partial dissent here.  Here is just a portion of a lengthy report on the decision that I received via e-mail:

Chief Justice Frank F. Drowota, III, writing for the majority, said enhanced sentences a judge imposed on Edwin Gomez and Jonathan S. Londono were not unconstitutional.  The defendants are not entitled to relief based on United States v. Booker and Blakely v. Washington, Drowota wrote. Justices William M. Barker and Janice M. Holder concurred in the decision. "We conclude that Tennessee's sentencing structure does not violate the Sixth Amendment," Drowota wrote.

In a separate concurring/dissenting opinion, Justice E. Riley Anderson disagreed and said the Blakely decision invalidates the enhanced sentences Gomez and Londono received.  Anderson was joined in his dissent by Justice Adolpho A. Birch, Jr. "In my view, the presumptive sentences set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated established a fixed point for the defendants' sentences such that the upward departure, based solely on findings made by the trial judge, was imposed in violation of Blakely and therefore violated the defendants' Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury," Anderson wrote....

[The defendants] claimed that under Blakely their sentences should have been the "presumptive minimum" defined by state law. Noting the court's duty "to indulge every presumption in favor of the constitutionality of statutes," the majority rejected the defendants' claim.  "In Booker all nine justices agreed that the Sixth Amendment is not implicated by a sentencing statute which permits judge fact-finding, but which does not mandate imposition of any increased sentence upon the judge's finding of a fact," Drowota wrote.  The majority explained that, unlike the statutes in Booker and Blakely, Tennessee's sentencing statute does not mandate an increased sentence when a judge finds an enhancement factor. Even after a judge finds an enhancement factor, the judge retains discretion to select any sentence within the statutory range, including the presumptive minimum sentence.  The Tennessee statute, Drowota wrote, "does not provide a system which requires or even allows judicial power to infringe upon the province of the jury."

The chief justice wrote, "some defendants will choose to raise and pursue Sixth Amendment Blakely-type claims in the hope that the United States Supreme Court will ultimately disagree with our determination of this issue, and nothing in this decision precludes them from doing so." The majority said its decision is not a "comment upon the work or recommendations" of a Task Force appointed by Governor Phil Bredesen in response to the Blakely decision.

"Determining whether the recommendations of the Task Force should be adopted in whole or in part is a matter for the Governor and the General Assembly," Drowota wrote.  The dissent noted the task force proposal would eliminate the statutory presumptive sentence, making the state sentencing act constitutional.

The court also reviewed and unanimously rejected a claim by Gomez and Londono that the testimony by a police detective concerning the statement of another defendant who was tried separately violated their Sixth Amendment right to confrontation.

April 15, 2005 in Blakely in the States | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Beyond Blakely and Booker: Pondering Process (in draft)

Allcovers The fine folks at the Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology have now given me permission to post a draft of the Foreword I have completed for the journal's Supreme Court Review Issue.  The article, which can be downloaded below, is entitled "Beyond Blakely and Booker: Pondering Modern Sentencing Process." 

This article is sort of a companion piece to my "Reconceptualizing Sentencing" article slated for publication in the next issue of the University of Chicago Legal Forum (which is available at this post).  Both articles stresses the conceptual significance of the move away from the rehabilitative model of sentencing, but this article stresses that Blakely and Booker have broad constitutional implications for sentencing procedures beyond just the jury trial right.  (Indeed, though written before the appearance of H.R. 1528, the drug sentencing bill which includes the Booker fix provisions (basics here, commentary here and linked here), some ideas in this piece buttress points made by Frank Bowman (available here) and Jim Felman (available here) about constitutional problems with this proposed response to Booker.)

Here is the introduction to "Beyond Blakely and Booker: Pondering Modern Sentencing Process":

The Supreme Court's landmark decision in Blakely v. Washington and its federal follow-up United States v. Booker are formally about the meaning and reach of the Sixth Amendment's right to a jury trial.  But these decisions implicate and reflect, both expressly and implicitly, a much broader array of constitutional provisions and principles, in particular, the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and the notice provision of the Sixth Amendment.  The future structure and operation of modern sentencing systems may greatly depend on how courts and others approach the due process provisions and principles which lurk in the unexplored shadows of the Supreme Court's decisions in Blakely and Booker.

In this foreword, I explain why an important enduring question which emerges from the Supreme Court's recent sentencing jurisprudence concerns whether, when and how procedural issues other than the Sixth Amendment's jury trial right will be addressed after Blakely and Booker.  In Part I, I provide a brief account of modern sentencing reform and its neglect of an array of procedural issues.  Part II focuses upon the Supreme Court's past and present jurisprudential struggles with procedural rights at sentencing.  Part III concludes by briefly sketching some considerations for courts and other key sentencing actors and institutions as they explore what process is due in modern sentencing systems.

Download beyond_blakely_and_booker_pondering_process_page_proof.doc 

April 15, 2005 in Booker and Fanfan Commentary | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More potent criticisms of H.R. 1528

The rapid movement of H.R. 1528, the drug sentencing bill which includes the Booker fix provisions (basics here, commentary here and linked here), through the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security has perhaps made it hard for all those concerned with federal sentencing to speak up about the bill.  But, in addition to Professor Frank Bowman's letter dissecting and assailing the Booker-inspired provisions of H.R. 1528 (Section 12), which is available here, others are starting to weigh in with criticisms of the bill.

FAMM has this new information about the H.R. 1528 and all of its disconcerting sentencing provisions, and TalkLeft now has this extended post focused on the drug sentencing components of H.R. 1528.  In addition, Jim Felman has given me permission to post the text of an e-mail he sent to the House staff which astutuely analyzes and critiques the Booker fix provisions of H.R. 1528.  (I put the text in a separate document which can be downloaded below.)

As it explains here, FAMM expects the full House Judiciary Committee to vote on H.R. 1528 as early as next week, and thus there is no time to waste for folks eager to weigh in on this bill.  I am hoping the US Sentencing Commission, as well as members of the judiciary, will be able to share their views ASAP about this bill.  Indeed, I think the Justice Department also ought to have some official position on the Booker fix provisions, which I suspect has some terms that even federal prosecutors won't like.

Download felmans_analysis_of_booker_fix.rtf

April 15, 2005 in Drug Offense Sentencing, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Legislative Reactions to Booker and Blakely, Offense Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Scope of Imprisonment, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Updating the state of Blakely in the states

Yesterday's major Washington Supreme Court ruling in Hughes about the application of Blakely is a great read, which covers some issues of universal concern (e.g., whether Blakely error can ever be harmless) and some state-specific issues (e.g, whether Washington trial courts can convene special sentencing juries to find facts to support exceptional sentences).  (Hughes answers both these questions in the negative, by the way.)

As this newspaper article details, Hughes is having an immediate impact in at least one case in which a jury had been convened to find facts to support an aggravated sentence following a defendant's guilty plea.  The article also effectively discussion the possible broader impact of Hughes in Washington.

The arrival of Hughes and other recent state sentencing action suggests it is time to update this post about the state Blakely pipeline.  Washington through the Hughes decision now joins four other states which have had their supreme court speak directly to Blakely issues; the others are Arizona (Brown), Indiana (Smylie), Minnesota (Shattuck), and Oregon (Dilts), although some of these rulings avoided more issues than they resolved.  And with major Blakely cases having been argued recently in California (details here) and New Jersey (details here), I suspect will we hear more from state supreme courts soon.  Also the Ohio Supreme Court now has a set of Blakely cases being briefed, Michigan has granted full review on Blakely issues (details here), and I suspect litigation is moving apace in other major Blakely-impacted stated such as Colorado, New Mexico, North Carolina and Tennessee.

April 15, 2005 in Blakely in the States | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More notable circuit rulings (from the blogsphere)

As I have noted repeatedly of late, there is too much significant Booker circuit action to cover comprehensively.  But, as detailed in today's posts concerning cases from the Third and Fifth and Tenth Circuits, I am able (aided by readers) to spotlight some of the more interesting rulings.  And, helpfully, a number of others around the blogsphere are also keeping with with some of the Booker circuit action:

April 15, 2005 in Booker in the Circuits | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 14, 2005

Big Blakely doings from where it all started

Returning us to the always intriguing state Blakely story, today Washington's state Supreme Court brings us a major decision in Washington v. Hughes, No. 74147-6 (Wash. Apr. 14, 2005) (available here).  Here is the court's helpful introduction:

These three cases were consolidated to address (1) the continuing validity of the exceptional sentence provisions of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1981 (SRA), chapter 9.94A RCW, (2) whether the exceptional sentences at issue here violated the petitioners' Sixth Amendment jury trial rights, (3) whether Blakely Sixth Amendment violations can ever be deemed harmless, and (4) what is the proper remedy if we find Sixth Amendment violations that are not harmless. 

We hold that the exceptional sentence provisions of the SRA are facially constitutional but that the exceptional sentences at issue violated petitioners' Sixth Amendment rights.  Because we also hold that Blakely Sixth Amendment violations can never be harmless and that empanelling juries on remand for re-sentencing would usurp the legislature's authority, we remand for imposition of standard range sentences.

The same court also today decided Washington v. Recuenco, No. 74964-7 (Wash. Apr. 14, 2005) (available here), which fills out the state sentencing story with this ruling:

Arturo Recuenco was charged with second degree assault with a deadly weapon enhancement because he assaulted his wife while holding a gun. At trial, the jury returned a guilty verdict on the assault charge and a special verdict that Recuenco was armed with a deadly weapon. But the trial court imposed a sentence enhancement based on Recuenco's being armed with a firearm, which was greater than that for a deadly weapon. This court granted review to consider whether imposition of a firearm enhancement without a jury finding that Recuenco was armed with a firearm beyond a reasonable doubt violated Recuenco's Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial as defined by Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and its progeny. As per our reasoning in State v. Hughes, No. 74147-6 (Wash. April 14, 2005), we hold that the trial court's imposition of the firearm enhancement violated Recuenco's Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. We reverse the Court of Appeals, vacate Recuenco's sentence, and remand for resentencing based on the one-year deadly weapon enhancement supported by the jury's special verdict.

April 14, 2005 in Blakely in the States | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More plain error action from the 10th Circuit

One remarkable feature of the remarkable Tenth Circuit en banc decision on plain error in Gonzalez-Huerta last week (details here) was that the Court stressed that it was only addressing the plain error issue for cases in which the imposed sentencing did not involve a Sixth Amendment violation.  The Gonzalez-Huerta decision spotlighted a distinction, like the one I discussed here, between constitutional and non-constitutional errors in applying mandatory guidelines, and it stressed that the court's emphasis on the fort-prong of plain error rested on the plain error below being of the non-constitutional variety Gonzalez-Huerta.

Thanks to an FOB, I now see that the Tenth Circuit yesterday decided, in US v. Dazey, No. 03-6187 (10th Cir. April 13, 2005) (available here), how the plain error analysis is to work in cases with a Sixth Amendment violation.  This Dazey opinion is 59 interesting pages (though only the last 15 are on plain error), and it seems to spotlight a few points that other circuits have not made central to their analysis (though the circuit seems generally to follow the approach adopted by the 1st, 5th, and 11th Circuits).  The FOB also noted that the Dazey ruling is interesting in part because a panel of the 10th Circuit decided this plain error question while the full Tenth Circuit has the same issue before them in the briefed and argued en banc case of US v. Yazzie, No. 04-2152, which was a companion case to Gonzalez-Huerta.

UPDATEA helpful reader has now pointed me to another 10th Circuit plain error case decided yesterday.  In US v. Trujillo-Terrazas, No. 04-2075 (10th Cir. April 13, 2005) (available here), the court remands for resentencing, in a case without a Sixth Amendment violation, because the district court expressed reservations at the sentencing hearing regarding the mandatory guidelines sentence and because of the "disconnect between the newly relevant § 3553(a) factors and the sentence given to Mr. Trujillo."  Notably, this decision seems to apply the principles of Gonzalez-Huerta though it does not expressly cite or discuss this case.

April 14, 2005 in Booker in the Circuits | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Intriguing (and questionable) 3d Circuit Booker dicta

The Third Circuit has been tight-lipped about Booker because it has adopted the unique (and perhaps legally unsound) practice of simply remanding every case with Booker claims, without any plain error discussion, for resentencing in light of Booker.  But today in US v. King, No. 03-4715 (3d Cir. Apr. 14, 2005) (available here), the Third Circuit (in an unpublished decision) dropped a footnote with Booker dicta that is both intriguing and questionable.

Beyond the Booker dicta, King is an interesting case (especially the day before taxes are due).  King was convicted and sentenced to prison for tax evasion, and on appeal he objects to a two-level guidelines enhancement for using sophisticated means to accomplish the offense, and he also contends that his prison sentence resulted from the district judge's "personal bias in favor of incarcerating tax evaders."  In an extended opinion, the Third Circuit rejects the defendant's claims, though still remands for resentencing under Booker.  Along the way, the King court drops this footnote:

Our discussion of the sophisticated means enhancement in no way suggests that a sentencing court must apply such an enhancement even where it might otherwise have been appropriate. It is clear that in the post Booker universe, the district court is free to reject all such enhancements in the appropriate exercise of its discretion.  Moreover, to the extent the sentencing court may decide to enhance a sentence based upon factors such as those incorporated into the sophisticated means enhancement, it must rely only upon conduct admitted by the defendant or found by the fact finder based upon proof beyond a reasonable.  That fact finder must be a jury unless a defendant waives his/her right to a jury trial.

Though I may be misreading this footnote, the last two sentences seem to suggest the Third Circuit is adopting the remedy of the remedial dissenters, as well as the remedy of the remedial majority, in Booker.  Because the King opinion is unpublished, this Booker dicta might not be consequential in future cases.  But this confusing dicta three months after Booker is just another indication of the confusing nature of the Booker ruling.

April 14, 2005 in Booker in the Circuits | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The reach of relevant conduct

As noted here, I have officially sworn off trying to follow all the Booker circuit action; but I cannot help glancing at recent opinions as time permits.  This afternoon I noticed that the Fifth Circuit issued an (unpublished) decision in US v. Fernandez-Pena, No. 04-40681 (5th Cir. Apr. 14, 2005) (available here), which is intriguing mostly as a window on the federal guidelines relevant conduct rules, which are still fully applicable (though now advisory) after Booker.

In Fernandez-Pena, the Fifth Circuit approved in an alien smuggling case the district court's increase of the defendant's guideline sentence based on relevant (and presumably uncharged) conduct of another incident of smuggling which took place "approximately 20 months before the offense of conviction."  The defendant asserted that this conduct was too remote to constitute relevant conduct, but the Fifth Circuit concluded that, "in light of the similarity of the offenses, the district court did not clearly err in including the prior conduct as relevant conduct."  (The Fernandez-Pena court also concluded that the defendant did not meet his plain-error burden to secure a remand for resentencing on Booker grounds.)

April 14, 2005 in Booker in the Circuits, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another morning of interesting sentencing news

Just like yesterday, this morning's newspapers brings an array of interesting and important sentencing reports:

April 14, 2005 in Blakely Commentary and News, Blakely in the States, Booker and Fanfan Commentary, Death Penalty Reforms, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 13, 2005

So much Booker circuit activity, eager for head-counts

I detailed here some highlights from the Eighth Circuit's copious Booker work today, and I see that Appellate Law & Practice has reports on sentencing cases from the First Circuit (here and here) and the Seventh Circuit Blog spotlights in a series of posts recent sentencing activity from the Seventh Circuit. 

But this is only the tip of the circuit sentencing iceberg: this opinion page reveals that the Sixth Circuit today issued more than a half-dozen (unpublished) opinions with sentencing issues, and my quick tour around the other circuits reveals that all but two circuits (the DC and the 9th) have issued numerous sentencing opinions this week.  I have officially given up trying to follow all the circuit action; I hope readers will make an effort to point out especially noteworthy and interesting opinions.

As noted here, today the Commission updated its post-Booker district court sentencing data.  But all this recent circuit action now makes me eager for some post-Booker circuit court data.  Actually, I would first like to see some post-Blakely appellate data; I suspect the sheer quantity of appeals in the federal system has spiked since Blakely.  Then I would like to see disposition data from the circuits, both post-Blakely and post-Booker

I suspect the USSC is overwhelmed just trying to track district court data and other key post-Booker tasks.  Moreover, we are all still awaiting the USSC's reports on (pre-Blakely) data from fiscal year 2003, which ended more than 18 months ago.  Thus, I am not holding my breath for post-Blakely and post-Booker circuit data anytime soon.  Nevertheless, the entire arena of federal sentencing appeals will likely be rich with interesting data whenever it becomes available.

April 13, 2005 in Booker in the Circuits | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Big sentencing day at the 8th Circuit

The House's consideration of a proposed Booker fix (backgound and highlights here), as well as an active US Sentencing Commission (hearing details here, new data here), have taken me off the circuit Booker beat.  But thanks to a few thoughtful readers, I see that today the Eighth Circuit has posted on its opinion website a total of eleven opinions in criminal cases.  [Gratuitous Spinal Tap quote: This one goes to eleven."].  Eighth of  these opinion seem to address some sentencing issues.  Called to my particular attention were a number of expositions of the "reasonableness" standard of review.  Below I note and link these cases, along with the descriptions that come directly from the Eighth Circuit's website:

US v. Pizano, No. 04-1348 (8th Cir. Apr. 13, 2005) (available here): In an appeal by the government challenging the extent of the district court's downward departure for substantial assistance under Section 5K1.1., the court finds a departure from a guidelines range of 70-87 months to a sentence of 18 months was not unreasonable; the district court seriously considered the government's recommendation before arriving at its own evaluation of the significance and usefulness of defendant's assistance, and, in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3553(c)(2), stated its reasons for departing, which reasons were based on the facts of the case and were related to the nature, extent and significance of the assistance; sentence was consistent with the goals of deterring crime and protecting the public. [PUBLISHED] [Murphy, Author, with Hansen and Melloy, Circuit Judges]

US v. Dalton, No. 04-1361 (8th Cir. Apr. 13, 2005) (available here): In an appeal by the government challenging the extent of the district court's downward departure for substantial assistance under Section 5K1.1, the court finds a departure from the mandatory minimum sentence of 240 months to 60 months was unreasonable; the assistance provided by the defendant was limited, and her cooperation was undercut by the facts that she absconded while on pretrial release and dealt more than six kilograms of methamphetamine while she was on parole from a prior conviction; these facts demonstrated defendant's usefulness was limited and that she had no particular amenability to rehabilitation; an extraordinary reduction must be supported by extraordinary circumstances, and no extraordinary circumstances were shown in this case. Case remanded for resentencing. [PUBLISHED] [Hansen, Author, with Murphy and Melloy, Circuit Judges]

US v. Haack, No. 04-1594 (8th Cir. Apr. 13, 2005) (available here): In an appeal by the government challenging the extent of the district court's downward departure for substantial assistance under Sec. 5K1.1, the court finds a departure from the 120 month mandatory minimum to 18 months was unreasonable and an abuse of discretion; the significance, usefulness, nature and extent of defendant's cooperation did not support the departure; the court also expresses concern that the sentencing court's departure was based, at least in part, on the court's dissatisfaction with the Guidelines, which is neither a proper nor a relevant factor for a departure. Case remanded for resentencing. [PUBLISHED] [Melloy, Author, with Murphy and Hansen, Circuit Judges]

US v. Christenson, No. 04-2084 (8th Cir. Apr. 13, 2005) (available here): In an appeal by the government challenged the extent of the district court's downward departure for substantial assistance under Section 5K1.1, the court finds a 75 percent downward departure was not unreasonable; the court considered the factors set out in 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3553(c) and Section 5K1.1, and based its decision on its evaluation of the extent and usefulness of defendant's cooperation. [PUBLISHED] [Benton, Author, with Smith and Beam, Circuit Judges]

April 13, 2005 in Booker in the Circuits | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Fascinating report from this week's USSC hearing

Baylor Law Professor Mark Osler, who has previously shared great insights from inside the Beltway, attended this week's USSC hearing and was kind enough to write up a report about what transpired.  Though it appears that there was not much Blakely and Booker talk, Mark's report (which can be downloaded below) suggests that the USSC hearing was still great theater.  Here's Mark's opening sentence:

Though smaller in scope and size than November's USSC hearings which fell between Blakely and Booker, April's hearings featured plenty of give and take and a startlingly intense and informed exchange of ideas between two especially articulate and passionate panelists, Jim Felman of the Practitioner’s Advisory Group and Scott Hammond of the Antitrust Division of the DOJ.

Download osler_report_on_the_april_12_ussc_hearing.doc

April 13, 2005 in Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Offense Characteristics, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Up-to-date post-Booker data from the USSC

As I had hoped, the USSC's hearing and meeting this week (background here) has led the US Sentencing Commission to update, and post on its Booker page, the USSC's latest collection of "post-Booker cases received, coded, and edited as part of the Commission's post-Booker project." 

The Commission latest numbers, which are based on data extracted at close-of-business on April 5, 2005, are available at this link. (Kudos yet again to the USSC for continuing to disseminate this data "in real time.")   Notably, this latest data run encompasses around 9,000 cases, and the USSC's memo provides basic case processing numbers broken down by primary offense categories and by circuit and district.

I hope to have some commentary on these latest numbers late tonight after I get a chance to review them in detail.  In the meantime, readers are invited to share their insights on the meaning of this latest data.

April 13, 2005 in Booker in district courts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Big development on federal boot camp

Courtesy of a FOB ("friend of blog"), I just got the news US District Judge Saris has enjoined the Bureau of Prisons from terminating the Shock Incarceration (or Intensive Confinement Center) Program until it has complied with the Administrative Procedure Act.  (Interesting background on this story can be found here.)

The decision, which can be downloaded below, is Castellini v. Lappin, 05-10220 (D. Mass. Apr. 12, 2005), and here is the opinion's introduction:

Plaintiff Richard Castellini, who was sentenced to twenty-one months of incarceration with a recommendation that his sentence be served in the federal boot camp program, moves for a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction to prevent defendant Harley Lappin, Director of the federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”), from terminating the boot camp program.  Plaintiff argues that he is likely to succeed on the merits because the BOP's termination of the program exceeded the BOP's authority, violated the notice-and-comment requirements for agency rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 553, and violated the Ex Post Facto Clause, U.S. Const. art. I, § 9, cl. 3.  After hearing, plaintiff's motion is ALLOWED on the ground that plaintiff is likely to succeed on his claim that the BOP failed to comply with the APA and violated the Ex Post Facto Clause.

Download castellini_icc_order.pdf

April 13, 2005 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

The rhetoric and reality surrounding the brewing Booker fix

I received today a copy of a fascinating one-page document that reportedly was developed by Representative James Sensenbrenner's office to explain section 12, the Booker fix section, of the proposed drug sentencing bill, H.R. 1528.  (Links assembled in this post provide extensive materials and commentary on this bill, its Booker-inspired provisions, and yesterday's House hearing on the bill.)

The document, which I provide for downloading below, is titled "Provisions of HR 1528 are not the legislative fix to Booker."  It correctly highlight aspects of Booker that Section 12 would not alter.  However, the document suggests that the chief goal of the section is to "establish procedures to assure that there is an adequate appellate and public record so that courts of appeals can apply the new Booker 'reasonableness' standard of review and so that Congress can review the sentencing practices as it considers a Booker fix." 

Though the document does note that Section 12 "prohibits judges from using enumerated factors to sentence below the guideline range," the document does not explain the strikingly unbalanced nature of its proposed "procedures."  As written, Section 12 would rigidly restrict the bases on which a judge can sentence below an applicable guideline range (and would impose burdensome procedural requirements before a judge could depart or vary), but the section does not in any way regulate judicial decisions to sentence at or above the guideline range on any ground.  Professor Frank Bowman's letter dissecting and assailing Section 12, which is available here, is far more accurate and forthright in detailing its terms and impact.

Apparently there are now conflicting reports on whether H.R. 1528 will be marked up in full committee next Wednesday.  But it is clear anyone concerned about this sort of congressional response to Booker should work to help ensure that rhetoric does not eclipse reality as the legislative process unfolds.

Download document_on_hr1528_section_12.rtf

April 13, 2005 in Booker and Fanfan Commentary, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Legislative Reactions to Booker and Blakely, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lots of interesting sentencing items in the papers

An array of newspaper articles this morning covers an array of interesting and important sentencing topics:

April 13, 2005 in Booker and Fanfan Commentary, Death Penalty Reforms, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 12, 2005

House hearing wrap-up

I have assembled below all the posts covering today's hearing before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security concerning H.R. 1528, the drug sentencing bill which includes the Booker fix provisions:

April 12, 2005 in Legislative Reactions to Booker and Blakely | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

DOJ advocacy for mandatory minimum sentencing

As detailed on this page from Families Against Mandatory Minimums and in this letter from the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Task Force of the Federal Bar Association's DC Chapter (of which I am a member), numerous policy-makers, judges, researchers and other respected commentators have spoken out against mandatory minimum sentencing provisions.  But in today's hearing on H.R. 1528, the federal drug sentencing bill which includes the Booker fix provisions (basics here, commentary here and here and here), written testimony on behalf of the Justice Department from Jodi Avergun, DEA's Chief of Staff, makes a broad argument in favor of mandatory minimum sentencing.

Avergun's testimony is available here, and here are two paragraphs on mandatory minimum sentencing that caught my eye:

The Department of Justice supports mandatory minimum sentences in appropriate circumstances. In a way sentencing guidelines cannot, mandatory minimum statutes provide a level of uniformity and predictability in sentencing.  They deter certain types of criminal behavior determined by Congress to be sufficiently egregious as to merit harsh penalties by clearly forewarning the potential offender and the public at large of the minimum potential consequences of committing such an offense.  And mandatory minimum sentences can also incapacitate dangerous offenders for long periods of time, thereby increasing public safety.  Equally important, mandatory minimum sentences provide an indispensable tool for prosecutors, because they provide the strongest incentive to defendants to cooperate against the others who were involved in their criminal activity.

In drug cases, where the ultimate goal is to rid society of the entire trafficking enterprise, mandatory minimum statutes are especially significant.  Unlike a bank robbery, for which a bank teller or an ordinary citizen could be a critical witness, often in drug cases the critical witnesses are drug users and/or other drug traffickers.  The offer of relief from a mandatory minimum sentence in exchange for truthful testimony allows the Government to move steadily and effectively up the chain of supply, using the lesser distributors to prosecute the more serious dealers and their leaders and suppliers.  Mandatory minimum sentences are needed in appropriate circumstances, such as trafficking involving minors and trafficking in and around drug treatment centers.

The rest of Avergun's testimony is also an interesting read, though it does not address the Booker fix provisions of H.R. 1528 because they were tacked on at the last minute.  Notably, Avergun's testimony indicates that even DOJ considers some of the most draconian drug sentencing provisions of H.R. 1528 to be too severe.

April 12, 2005 in Booker and Fanfan Commentary, Drug Offense Sentencing, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Legislative Reactions to Booker and Blakely, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Impressive website from NJ Commission

Kudos to the New Jersey Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing for its recently unveiled official website.  In addition to being visually appealing and providing essential information about the Commission's work, this site serves a terrific resource on a range of sentencing topics through this very detailed page of resources and this document library.  In addition, the website also includes this helpful page of links to other sentencing commission websites, many of which also merit praise for their broad and thoughtful coverage of various sentencing and corrections issues.

April 12, 2005 in State Sentencing Guidelines, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Contrasting sentencing politics

Commenting on my talk yesterday at Minnesota Law School about forging a new sentencing politics (details here), Professor Richard Frase rightly commented that the politics of sentencing at the state level is much more balanced than at the federal level.  Professor Rachel Barkow makes the same astute point in her forthcoming Columbia article on "Federalism and the Politics of Sentencing."

A number of events today document the contrast between sentencing politics at the state and federal levels.  The development and hearing on H.R. 1528, the federal drug sentencing bill which includes the Booker fix provisions (basics here, commentary here and here and here), reveals that the "tough-on-crime" politics of recent years still has purchase in the federal system.  But from the states we get the news from TalkLeft here that the New York State Assembly Codes Committee today defeated a bill to reinstate New York's death penalty, and news from Grits for Breakfast here that a conservative think tank in Texas is actively discussing "how to increase the effectiveness of alternatives to incarceration that will play a greater role in the state's criminal justice system."

April 12, 2005 in Death Penalty Reforms, Legislative Reactions to Booker and Blakely, Scope of Imprisonment, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More opposition to quick Booker fix

The House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security hearing on H.R. 1528, the drug sentencing bill which includes the Booker fix provisions (basics here, commentary here and here), is still on-going.  I hope to report more on this House hearing (and this morning's USSC hearing) in future posts (and in the meantime I notice that the written testimony of some of the witnesses is now linked at this official website).

In the meantime, I see that the White Collar Crime Prof Blog has this post lamenting that "this Booker fix is being aired without the opportunity of meaningful input by the judiciary, academics, practitioners, and others."  That post also usefully pointed me to this (new?) webpage from the NACDL covering "Federal Sentencing After Booker" with materials and reports that all advocate against "quick fix" legislative responses to Booker.  And the ACLU has this press release urging the rejection of H.R. 1528.

April 12, 2005 in Legislative Reactions to Booker and Blakely | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bowman on the proposed Booker fix

Professor Frank Bowman, who advocated a go-slow approach in this testimony to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security during their February Booker hearing  (highlights here), has drafted a terrific letter about the Booker fix provisions in the drug sentencing bill that is about to be the subject of House hearings (basics here, commentary here).

I have provided Frank's letter for downloading below, and here is one of many choice paragraphs:

As I and others suggested would be the case, the system of advisory guidelines created by Booker seems to be working acceptably, at least for the moment.  Statistics compiled by the Sentencing Commission suggest that judicial compliance with the Guidelines remains virtually identical to the levels that prevailed before Blakely and Booker.  Congress is not faced with an emergency calling for immediate legislation.  Moreover, any legislation that would fundamentally transform a system as complex as the federal sentencing guidelines requires time and careful thought. It had been my understanding that many, perhaps most, members of this Subcommittee were of the view that a legislative response to Booker should await data on the operation of the advisory system and should be the product of careful development and wide consultation.  Section 12 of the present Bill does not meet these criteria.  It is premature, poorly conceptualized, and imprecisely drafted.  And far from being the product of careful consultation with interested and knowledgeable persons and institutions, it was inserted into the present Bill mere days before the Subcommittee markup with no notice to or consultation with anyone.

Download bowman_judiciary_letter_41105_on_booker_fix.doc

April 12, 2005 in Booker and Fanfan Commentary, Drug Offense Sentencing, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Legislative Reactions to Booker and Blakely, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A day for sentencing hearings

The US Sentencing Commission had a hearing scheduled for this morning which, as revealed in this notice and in the written testimony linked here, was intended to focus only on proposed guideline amendments concerning identity theft, antitrust and steroids offenses.  But, with the news yesterday that the House is now working on a broad Booker fix (basics here, commentary here), I suspect the USSC hearing had some extra drama.  I encourage anyone in attendance to report any interesting developments from this morning's USSC meeting.

The hearings inside the Beltway continue this afternoon with the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security conducting at 1pm a legislative hearing on H.R. 1528, the drug sentencing bill which includes the Booker fix provisions.  I believe that the hearing can be watched live via this official website.  But, as I noted before here, the listed witnesses were clearly called to testify on the drug sentencing provisions of the bill, and it does not appear that anyone is to testify on the Booker fix provisions.

Following this afternoon's hearing, the House Subcommittee has scheduled a markup of H.R. 1528, the drug sentencing bill which includes the Booker fix and is called "Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act of 2005," and also on H.R. 1279, the gang sentencing bill which is called the "Gang Deterrence and Community Protection Act of 2005."  FAMM provides more details on both bills here and here.

UPDATE: The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers now has this coverage of the proposed Booker fix.

April 12, 2005 in Booker and Fanfan Commentary, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Questions about the brewing Booker fix

The Booker fix which is brewing in the US House of Representatives (basics here and here) has my mind racing with questions.  Here are just a few of the queries which leap to mind:

1.  Did the Justice Department have a hand in drafting this Booker fix?  At recent USSC hearings, DOJ representatives expressed possible interest in a "Bowman fix," but they seemed to disavow interest in mandatory minimum sentences.  The Booker fix appearing now as section 12 of H.R. 1528 (linked here) is something of a combination of the Bowman fix and the original extreme Feeney Amendment; the proposed fix, in FAMM's words, "would effectively make the federal sentencing guidelines a system of mandatory minimum sentences."

2.  Did the US Sentencing Commission have any warning concerning this Booker fix?  The USSC was blind-sided by Congress with the Feeney Amendment, and I have heard the USSC has been working hard throughout the last year to build a more effective working relationship with Congress.  I sensed that this relationship had been pretty positive in the post-Blakely and post-Booker periods, but the abrupt development of this Booker fix suggests that there is not perfect harmony inside the Beltway.

3.  What is likely to become of this Booker fix?  In the wake of Booker, the House has been the most fiery in its rhetoric about the need for a legislative response, while the Senate has seemed calm (almost to the point of indifference) about Booker.  This proposal could just be more rhetoric that will have no traction in the Senate.  Notably, this Wall Street Journal article about the bill reports that a "Senate Republican Judiciary Committee staff member said the staff members weren't consulted about the House bill and had no companion proposal in the works."  But recall that, though clever procedural maneuvers, the backers of the Feeney Amendment got that legislation through Congress in just a matter of weeks despite reservations expressed by some Senators.

4.  Will federal judges jump into the policy debate over a Booker fix?  In this post back in November, I pondered whether judges might become actively involved in policy debates over the future of the federal sentencing system.  And that was before Booker created a remedy that seem to be to the liking of most of the federal bench.  Sadly, given the ugly judge-bashing in DC these days, I fear that the views of federal judges won't be given the respect they deserve even if they do actively engage in the post-Booker policy dialogue.

5.  Is this Booker fix constitutional, or does it make Harris and/or Mistretta shaky?  This Booker fix relies upon the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Harris, which allows judges to find facts that raise minimum sentences.  But in light of Blakely and Booker, the votes of Justices Breyer and Scalia (and maybe Kennedy) are not certain if Harris is really put to the test through this Booker fix.  Also, even if no current Justice has a changed view, the expected replacement of Chief Justice Rehnquict (or later Justice O'Connor) could prove to be a swing vote on this matter. 

In addition, recall that Judge Panner in Detwiler concluded that the Feeney Amendment undermined key concepts that supported the Supreme Court's decision in Mistretta and thus rendered the whole federal system structurally unconstitutional (Detwiler is discussed here with commentary here).  I think Judge Panner's Detwiler result and reasoning becomes even more compelling if this Booker fix becomes law.

6.  Is this Booker fix a symptom of the post-Schiavo attack on the judiciary? Congress and the federal judiciary have been sparing over sentencing matters for a number of years, and this sort of Blakely/Booker fix was feared long before the recent Schiavo happenings.  But it had seemed that Congress was prepared to let the post-Booker world develop for some months, perhaps because the most recent statistics from the USSC (which I hope will be updated ASAP) suggest that the post-Booker world looks a lot like the pre-Booker world.  And yet, despite evidence suggesting not much needs fixing, suddenly in the midst of all the ugly judge-bashing rhetoric we get a dramatic sentencing proposal which reads like a massive broad-side attack on judicial sentencing discretion.

Readers with possible answers to any of these questions, or with additional questions about the brewing Booker fix, are encouraged to speak up in the comments.

April 12, 2005 in Blakely in Legislatures, Booker and Fanfan Commentary, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Legislative Reactions to Booker and Blakely, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Details concerning the brewing Booker fix

I am back home from the North Star state at a fully functioning computer and can thus now provide a lot more details about the Booker fix which is brewing in the US House of Representatives.  Here are some basics:

1. The Booker fix appears as section 12 of H.R. 1528, a drug sentencing bill entitled "Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act of 2005."  A table of contents for the bill, with links to the bill's text, is available at this link.

2.  The substance of the Booker fix in section 12 of H.R. 1528 is anything but subtle.  The bill essentially forbids consideration of three dozen potentially mitigating factors as a basis for sentencing below the applicable guideline range, and it imposes significant procedural restrictions on any possible remaining grounds for downward departure (except based on a prosecutor's motion for substantial assistance or for fast-track treatment).

3. The House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security will conduct a legislative hearing on H.R. 1528 tomorrow at 1pm, and the four scheduled witnesses are listed at this official website.  The descriptions of the witnesses suggest they were called to testify on the drug sentencing provisions of the bill; it does not appear that anyone has been called to testify concerning the Booker fix provisions.

4. Even before the addition of the Booker fix, FAMM has been tracking this drug sentencing bill and another bill with mandatory sentencing provisions entitled "The Gang Deterrence and Community Protection Act of 2005" (as detailed here).  I provide for downloading below a section-by-section analysis of H.R. 1528, the drug sentencing bill which includes the Booker fix.

Download section_by_section_hr1528_bill_analysis.rtf

April 12, 2005 in Booker and Fanfan Commentary, Drug Offense Sentencing, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Legislative Reactions to Booker and Blakely, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Notable death penalty stories

Though the Booker legislative developments have my attention, a few notable death penalty items merit mention.  From the legislative arena, TalkLeft has all the details here on the planned vote in the New York Assembly Tuesday on whether the state's death penalty should be reinstated.   And from the judicial arena, law.com has this fascinating article which explains that an "increasingly conservative 9th Circuit is growing less receptive to capital claims."

April 12, 2005 in Death Penalty Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday's Booker news from the courts

I am back home from my quick trip to the North Star state, and soon I will provide a lot more details and raise a series of questions about the Booker fix which is brewing in the US House of Representatives.  But let me first quickly report on some of the Booker news coming from the courts today:

April 12, 2005 in Booker and Fanfan Commentary, Booker in district courts, Booker in the Circuits | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 11, 2005

The (Booker) fix is in?

I received from various sources news that the House republicans have developed a Booker fix and attached it to a bill that will be considered in the House tomorrow.  I have not yet seen the bill, but I do see that Families Against Mandatory Minimums has some details about this (unexpected?) development at this link

I am at an airport kiosk, and likely won't be able to provide more details or links until much later tonight.  In the meantime, folks in the know are encouraged to leave comments with details, and I hope to be able to discuss this major news more when I am back to a fully functional computer late tonight.

UPDATE: I see that the US Sentencing Commission has on its home page some details about its planned meeting and hearing tomorrow. I wonder if the USSC got any advance word of this seemingly sudden proposed Booker fix. It does not appear to be on the USSC's hearing agenda, and I do not see any mention of this issue in the testimony from the Justice Department officials scheduled to testify before the USSC tomorrow.

April 11, 2005 in Legislative Reactions to Booker and Blakely | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A call for SCOTUS action on Booker plain error

A few free minutes and a wireless network allows me to post quickly from Minnesota.  On the flight in, I had a chance to read closely all the opinions in the 10th Circuit's recent plain-error ruling in Gonzalez-Huerta, and I recommend it highly to everyone following this area of law closely.  I also have to spotlight the parting thoughts of Judge Lucero in Gonzalez-Huerta:

The division on this court over the proper approach to Booker cases pending direct review is replicated among the various circuit courts.  This wide ranging circuit split results in the disparate treatment of criminal defendants throughout the nation.  Such uneven administration of justice cries out for a uniform declaration of policy by the Supreme Court.

April 11, 2005 in Booker in the Circuits | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Off to Minnesota

As discussed more fully here, Monday I head to Minnesota to give this talk to a local ACS chapter.  I likely will be off-line most of the day.  But, continuing my trend of heavy weekend blogging (consider last Sunday's posting), I leave behind lots of recent copy.  And, in addition to the weekend posts linked below, assembled and linked in this post are major developments from earlier this month.

Weekend posts:

April 11, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The human face of retroactivity

I receive an enormous amount of e-mail and snail mail from prisoners and defendants and their families.  I typically cannot find time to read most of this correspondence, let alone respond thoughtfully.  But this mail serves as a constant and valuable reminder of the human face of all the issues covered on this blog.

This weekend I received a prisoner letter via e-mail that was particularly compelling in its discussion of the human side of retroactivity.  I obtained permission  from the author to share this letter, and it can be downloaded below.  I most recently posted here about the doctrine of retroactivity, but this letter spotlights the humanity of retroactivity.

Download prisoner_retroactivity_plea.doc

April 11, 2005 in Apprendi / Blakely Retroactivity | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 10, 2005

Pondering the USSC's role after Booker

As indicated here, the US Sentencing Commission has both a public hearing and a public meeting scheduled for this coming week.  I am not sure of the full agenda for these meetings, though I know they will be in part concerned with proposed guideline amendments concerning identity theft and antitrust offenses that the USSC had previously promulgated for comments (available here).

I am hopeful that this USSC meeting will bring us more post-Booker sentencing statistics; but the consideration of specific guideline amendments has me pondering more broadly the role of the USSC post-Booker.  I think interesting arguments might be made that, since the guidelines are now wholly advisory, the USSC ought to approach guideline amendments in a much different way.  At the very least, given the centrality of the § 3553(a) factors in the wake of Booker, it seems important for the USSC to explain and justify its changes to the guidelines with greater explicit discussion of the factors and principles in § 3553(a).

I am not the only one pondering these issues.  Indeed, Jim Felman, who is scheduled to testify at this week's USSC hearing, has authored testimony which (particularly in part 3) discusses thoughtfully how the USSC ought to proceed post-Booker.  Among other interesting points, this testimony (which can be downloaded below) notes that the "Commission's consideration of the § 3553(a) factors when drafting and amending the guidelines is a critical aspect of the reasoning underlying judicial decisions to afford the guidelines substantial weight after Booker."

Download felman_ussc_2005_antitrust_testimony.wpd

April 10, 2005 in Legislative Reactions to Booker and Blakely, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Forging a new sentencing politics

I am off to the Minnesota Law School tomorrow to give this talk to their American Constitution Society chapter about "how progressives and conservatives can come together on sentencing issues."  A few months ago in posts here and here, I explored whether we might be seeing a "new right" on criminal sentencing issues, and I hope to develop some of these themes in my talk tomorrow.

Thanks to fellow bloggers, I see some recent newspaper items which spotlight the role that religion may play in forging a new sentencing politics.  Via How Appealing, this article from the San Francisco Chronicle discusses recent comments of conservative Senators Santorum and Brownback questioning the death penalty.  And via TalkLeft, this article from the Houston Chronicle discusses the development of a faith-based prison in Texas.  As I have discussed in a number of prior posts, some of which are linked below, the connection between religion and sentencing is quite dynamic and could certainly fuel progressive reforms in corrections and in the administration of the death penalty.

April 10, 2005 in Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Scope of Imprisonment, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Rethinking parole and its place in modern sentencing

The story of parole in modern sentencing is dynamic and debatable.  Followers of guideline sentencing reforms often think of parole, which has been abolished in the federal system and in many state systems, as a vestige of the rehabilitative model of sentencing.  But the recent report on parole from the Urban Institute (detailed here) is a reminder not only that parole remains a integral component of many state sentencing systems, but also that parole ought to have a central place in modern debates over future sentencing reforms.

Two recent news stories reporting on state parole developments provide an interesting perspective on these topics.  This story from Minnesota Public Radio discusses a bill moving through the state legislature that would re-establish a state parole board (which was eliminated in 1982 when Minnesota adopted its sentencing guidelines).  And this story from the Los Angeles Times discusses the state's decision to no longer allow parole violators to be diverted into drug treatment programs, halfway houses and home detention instead of being returned to prison "because there is no evidence the new approach is working."

As we consider parole in modern sentencing, the research from the Urban Institute's parole report (detailed here) and other empirical evidence of program effectiveness ought to play a central role.  In addition, as Professor Steve Chanenson has recently noted in his article "The Next Era of Sentencing Reform"  (discussed here), the new legal landscape that Blakely has created may suggest shifting some sentencing decision-making into the parole setting.

April 10, 2005 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Scope of Imprisonment, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The blossoming sentencing literature

I have often jokingly called Blakely "the case which launched a thousand law review articles," and a recent stop at SSRN has confirmed the blossoming of the sentencing literature in the wake of Blakely.  (Of course, this post last month listing many recent sentencing articles also spotlighted that sentencing is now "hot.")

The Columbia Law Review's recent symposium "Sentencing: What's at Stake for the States?" is culminating in a forthcoming issue with a dozen articles that will all be must-reads for academics and others in this field.  I have also seen some other recent articles which further enrich and enhance the scholarly dialogue about sentencing reforms.  Below I have listed and linked some of the articles recently appearing on SSRN and elsewhere that I have added to my (much-too-long) reading list:

April 10, 2005 in Blakely Commentary and News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack