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June 21, 2007

Rita is here and...

Lyle Denniston is reporting here at SCOTUSblog that Rita is out and upholds a presumption of reasonableness for within-guideline sentences.  However, the vote count suggests the opinion may be very nuanced.  Here is the first report:

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a federal criminal sentence within the Guidelines may be presumed to be reasonable when the case is on appeal. However, it said that such a presumption is not binding.  Although the Court was divided in some respects, the vote on the result was 8-1 with only Justice David H. Souter dissenting in Rita v. U.S. (06-5754).

A lot more to follow, of course.

MORE:  Here is Lyle's new paragraph describing the main opinion:

In key passages in Justice Stephen G. Breyer's main opinion, the Court said: "A non-binding appellate presumption that a Guidelines sentence is reasonable does not require the sentencing judge to impose that sentence.  Still less does it forbid the sentencing judge from imposing a sentence higher than the Guidelines provide for the jury-determined facts standing alone.  As far as the law is concerned, the judge could disregard the Guidelines and apply the same senence (higher than the statutory minimum or the bottom of the unenhanced Guidelines range) in the absence of the special facts (say, gun brandishing) which, in the view of the sentencing Commission, would warrant a higher sentence within the statutorily permissible range.  Thus, our Sixth Amendment cases do not forbid appellate court use of the presumption."

I am now certain that one of the levels of hell involves trying to figure out what an important SCOTUS ruling says and means before being able to access the opinion itself.

June 21, 2007 at 10:04 AM | Permalink


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So the presumption is OK, so long as it's not "binding?" Sounds "nuanced," indeed.

Posted by: JDB | Jun 21, 2007 10:23:49 AM

The opinion is now up on Westlaw.

Posted by: | Jun 21, 2007 10:26:14 AM

The Westlaw version is available here (http://howappealing.law.com/Rita2007.pdf) via Howard at How Appealing.

Posted by: JDB | Jun 21, 2007 10:38:23 AM

In reading the opinion, I see the answer to one of my biggest sources of confusion from this post: The quote is "(higher than the statutory _minimum_ or the bottom of the unenhanced Guidelines range)" not "higher than the statutory _maximum_ or the bottom of the unenhanced Guidelines range."

Posted by: JP Davis | Jun 21, 2007 11:29:09 AM

Right, JP Davis, and now fixed...

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 21, 2007 11:58:16 AM

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