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June 6, 2007

Another remarkable homage to jury trial rights from Judge Young

In June 2004, about a week before the Supreme Court decided Blakely, District Judge William Young of the District of Massachusetts issued this remarkable 174-page opinion in US v. Green concluding that the logic of Apprendi and Ring rendered the federal sentencing guidelines unconstitutional.  (Of course, the Supreme Court vindicated Judge Young's analysis through its subsequent opinions in Blakely and Booker.)  Last summer, Judge Young today issued this remarkable 141-page opinion in US v. Kandirakis to explain his view of post-Booker sentencing realities.

Today, Judge Young has completed his third extraordinary opinion spotlighting the importance of jury trial rights and the Apprendi line of cases system through an opinion in US v. Griffin, No. 05-10372 (D. Mass. June 6, 2007) (available for download below).  Though weighing in at a svelte 45 pages, Griffin is jam packed with amazing insights and rhetorical flourishes (as well as a cite to Orin Kerr's favorite recent casenote). 

Of particular importance, Griffin give punch to the Supreme Court's ruling in Cunningham (even though most other federal courts have opted to ignore Cunnigham's potential import).  Let me quote one of the many major passages from Griffin:

In short, the importance of Cunningham is two-fold.  First, much as a codicil is to a revoked will, Cunningham's timing -- after the internally irreconcilable Booker decisions -- republishes the Apprendi/Blakely/Constitutional Booker theme over Remedial Booker's minimization of the Sixth Amendment.  Thus, the epicenter of Sixth Amendment jurisprudence for sentencing purposes is located on the facts found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.  See Cunningham, 127 S.Ct. at 863-64. Second, the analysis in Cunningham reiterates and clarifies that the "statutory maximum" for Sixth Amendment analysis must be determined, in first instance, by jury-found facts. See id. at 868. For these two purposes, it makes no difference that Cunningham focuses on a state sentencing law instead of the federal advisory sentencing guidelines.

Download judge_young_griffin_opinion.rtf

June 6, 2007 at 05:09 PM | Permalink


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Griffin gives the case note the treatment it deserves, though it's unfortunate that the note gets any attention at all. Judge Young correctly calls it "sophomoric" and finds it noteworthy that such a proposal appears in a "reputable legal publication."

Posted by: | Jun 6, 2007 8:58:13 PM

In the grand scheme of things, Judge Young's opinion is a tour de force. It is so in step with the Apprendi, Blakely, and Cunningham, yet so out of step with how district courts and circuit panels have been operating post-Booker that the opinion in Griffin can correctly be called revolutionary.

Congratulations to Judge Young for having the courage to do what he did, and I can only hope that the First Circuit will honestly address the issues in this case. An honest application of the Court's Sixth Amendment jurisprudence counsels only one result: Affirm.

Posted by: Aaron | Jun 10, 2007 3:41:11 PM

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