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September 10, 2007

Another split reasonableness ruling from the Sixth Circuit

Another work week means another week of circuits working on exactly what reasonableness review means.  Today, in US v. Hairston, No. 06-4072 (6th Cir. Sept. 10, 2007) (available here), the Sixth Circuit splits when judging the substantive reasonableness of a below-guideline sentence in a low-level crack case.  The majority (per Judge Martin) rejects the government's assertion that the imposition of a 60-month mandatory minimum was substantively unreasonable, whereas Judge Batchelder dissents on this point.  Judge Batchelder's dissent concludes with this notable flourish:

If Mother Teresa sold 5 grams of crack then she could not possibly get less prison time than the majority opinion approves for Hairston. There are clearly “more worthy defendants” than Hairston.  Therefore, Hairston’s sentence is not substantively reasonable.

Given that Mother Teresa died long ago, I doubt that news coverage of the discovery that she is now selling small amounts of crack would focus on her minimum possible federal sentence.  Nevertheless, I suppose Mother Teresa would be flattered that she is still in the minds of federal judges as they consider drug sentences even a full decade after she passed away.

September 10, 2007 at 11:45 AM | Permalink


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Does it follow that a theoretical possibility of some person being less blameworthy but getting more time renders a sentence unreasonable? Yes, we should strive to have equal offenders treated equally, but that's not going to happen, as different federal judges have different opinions on everything.

Posted by: federalist | Sep 10, 2007 4:03:03 PM

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