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January 9, 2007

Striking a pose against federal mandatory minimums

09sentence_lg Tuesday's New York Times has this interesting article entitled "Judges Look to New Congress for Changes in Mandatory Sentencing Laws."  As spotlighted here, the article includes pictures of two of SL&P's favorite district judges, Judge Nancy Gertner (D. Mass.) and Judge Paul Cassell (D. Utah).  Both judges look quite dapper in the pictures (which you can enlarge with a click), though I'm intrigued that Judge Cassell appears in his robe, while Judge Gertner gets the mood-lighting-books-in-the-background treatment.

The full Times piece is worth reading; here is a snippet noting that even judges appointed by Republicans are hoping the new Democratic Congress will consider scaling back some mandatory sentencing terms:

Among those eagerly awaiting signs of change are federal judges, including many conservatives appointed by Republican presidents.  They say the automatic sentences, determined by Congress, strip judges of individual discretion and result in ineffective, excessive penalties, often for low-level offenders....

"With a changing of the guard, there should at least should be some discussion," said William W. Wilkins, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan.

The House Judiciary Committee, under the new leadership of Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, is planning hearings on the laws, starting later this month or in early February.  One of the first issues planned for review is the sentencing disparity between offenses involving powder and crack cocaine....

January 9, 2007 at 12:31 AM | Permalink


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Tracked on Jan 9, 2007 3:59:46 PM


The article gives two of the more egregious examples of draconian sentencing that achieves little if anything - the mandatory minimums if a firearm is present under 922, and the crack/cocaine disparity. It seems that any action by Congress ought to wait at least until Rita/Claiborne are decided. That will provide a clearer picture of the guideline role, and perhaps some more direction for Congress.

Posted by: Bernie Kleinman | Jan 9, 2007 3:24:11 PM

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