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December 7, 2006

What the latest USSC data reveal

Though I have not yet assessed all the particulars, the latest USSC sentencing data (basics here) suggest that the circuits' anti-defendant tilt in their approach to reasonableness review is significantly impacting the rate at which district judges go below the guidelines.  (Some recent evidence of the circuits' anti-defendant tilt appears here and here, older evidence is here.)

Here's what I noticed from the last three data reports from the USSC's Booker page.  District judges were going below the guidelines (either via departures or variances) in 12.4% of all cases through June 1 in Fiscal Year 2006.  The data through June 30, however, showed judges going below the guidelines in only 12.1% of all cases in FY 2006.  The latest stats through September 30 now show that judges went below the guidelines in only 11.9% of all cases for all of FY 2006. 

Because these number are cumulative, this accounting does not reflect the particularly low variance rate for the last two quarters of FY 2006.  My rough guess is that judges have been downward varying in less than 1 of every 10 cases over the last two quarters of FY 2006.  Also Figure I in this latest data run shows that some average drug sentences have gone way up the last two quarters (especially for crack and meth); Figures A and B suggest this may be because district judges now varying less in these cases.

December 7, 2006 at 07:41 AM | Permalink


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