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June 29, 2007

Nice simple account of Rita from the Seventh Circuit

Though I am still awaiting (and may wait a long time for) a blockbuster post-Rita opinion from the circuit courts, the Seventh Circuit on Thursday provided this effective brief account of the Rita decision in US v. Sachsenmaier, No. 05-3505 (7th Cir. June 28, 2007) (available here):

[T]he Supreme Court has now expressly endorsed the rebuttable presumption of reasonableness for appellate review of a district court’s sentencing decision.  See Rita v. United States, No. 06-5754, 2007 WL 1772146 (June 21, 2007); United States v. Nitch, 477 F.3d 933, 937- 38 (7th Cir. 2007); United States v. Gama-Gonzalez, 469 F.3d 1109 (7th Cir. 2006). The Rita decision emphasized that this is a standard for appellate review only. Rita, 2007 WL 1772146, at *9.  The district courts must calculate the advisory sentencing guideline range accurately, so that they can derive whatever insight the guidelines have to offer, but ultimately they must sentence based on 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) without any thumb on the scale favoring a guideline sentence.  If, however, a district court freely decides that the guidelines suggest a reasonable sentence, then on appellate review the defendant must explain why the district court was wrong.

June 29, 2007 at 01:12 AM | Permalink


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Diane Wood does excellent work.

Posted by: | Jun 29, 2007 1:20:22 AM

That sounds nice and fluffy but we all know it won't work that way. Within guideline range ==> affirmed as reasonable. Below guideline range ==> vacated and remanded as unreasonable. Above guideline range ==> 95% of the time affirmed as reasonable, 5% of the time vacated and remanded so the district court can give the top of the guideline range sentence.

Posted by: bruce | Jun 29, 2007 1:53:35 AM

Isn't there pretty much always a presumption of reasonableness in any trial court ruling?

The appellant always has the burden of persuasion in the appellate court, so we always start from the proposition that the trial court was right and the appellant must demonstrate error, prejudice, etc.

I'm not sure exactly what kind of calculus Rita requires, but it doesn't seem terribly helpful from the perspective of trial and appellate judges and attorneys.

Posted by: Tom Dickinson | Jun 29, 2007 7:41:05 AM

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