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August 10, 2007

More reasonable Sixth Circuit work on reasonableness review

While others are buzzing about a new split Sixth Circuit death penalty ruling in Richey (see posts ODPI and Volokh), I am more intrigued by the split Sixth Circuit reasonableness ruling in US v. Thomas, No. 06-1299 (6th Cir. Aug. 10, 2007) (available here).  Unlike the Seventh Circuit's eagerness to call appeals of within-guideline sentences frivolous, the Sixth Circuit seems to be taking Rita seriously and in Thomas finds a within-guideline sentence to be procedurally unreasonable.  Here is the heart of the majority's decision:

[T]he record in Rita made clear that the district court considered and rejected the defendant’s arguments for a lower sentence, as the district court summarized the defendant’s three arguments before rejecting them and sentencing the defendant within the Guidelines range. Id. at 2461. In this case, the district court’s only mention of Thomas’s numerous arguments for a lower sentence was the statement, “I certainly have received [the sentencing memorandum], read it and understand its presentations.” J.A. at 34 (2/2/06 Hr’g at 7).  This conclusory statement leaves us unsure as to whether the district court adequately considered and rejected Thomas’s arguments regarding proper application of the § 3553(a) factors or whether it misconstrued, ignored, or forgot Thomas’s arguments.  Because the district court did not “set forth enough to satisfy the appellate court that he has considered theparties’ arguments and has a reasoned basis for exercising his own legal decisionmaking authority,” Rita, 127 S. Ct. at 2468, Rita requires that we vacate Thomas’s sentence.

August 10, 2007 at 12:30 PM | Permalink


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Today a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit divided on a habeas appeal (surprise!), in Richey v. Bradshaw. What is particularly interesting about this case is that this is not the first time this pane... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 11, 2007 4:07:33 PM


The dissent has it right. This remand to "say it again with more feeling" is a waste of everyone's time.

Posted by: | Aug 10, 2007 12:48:02 PM

I disagree. Procedural due process may be tedious at times, but ensuring that the defendant's rights are enforced is well worth that cost. The Sixth Circuit was correct to send the case back with instructions to the district court to actually respond to the defendant's arguments.

Posted by: Anonymous | Aug 10, 2007 4:31:31 PM

Procedural due process may be tedious at times, but ensuring that the defendant's rights are enforced is well worth that cost.

Right, but the defendant has no right to this remand. Neither 3553(a) nor the constituion requires a detailed statement of reasons. Rita said that a defendant's right to an explanation of the sentence varies according to the unusualness of the sentence and the quality of the defendant's arguments for a lesser sentence. There doesn't seem to be much here to indicate that the sentence was unusual or that the defendant had any good arguments for a lower sentence.

Posted by: | Aug 13, 2007 11:38:24 AM

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