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July 8, 2008

A new web pitch for Webb: (ex officio) US Sentencing Commissioner

I was disappointed to learn that Senator Jim Webb, the only national political figure who has shown a real commitment to questioning the efficacy of modern mass incarceration, has taken himself out of the VP sweepstakes.  So, I must now morph my web pitch for Webb as VP into a web pitch for Webb to become a member of the US Sentencing Commission.

Notably, many state sentencing commissions formally or informally include members of the state legislature, and research by Rachel Barkow and others suggests that the most successful commissions are those with active involvement by legislators.  Though the US Sentencing Commission is technically located in the judicial branch, I do not think there are strong constitutional or practical reasons why Senator Webb (or another elected politician) could not serve on the Commission (though perhaps there is a provision in federal law precluding this kind of dual service).

Notably, the members of the US Sentencing Commission have to be divided in their party affiliation and so Senator Webb would be a sound and plausible pick no matter who takes the White House this fall. 

Some related posts:

UPDATE:  Helpful commentors have noted that the Constitution would seem to get in the way of Senator Webb wearing two hats, so maybe he should just get an honorary or ex officio appointment to the USSC.

July 8, 2008 at 09:49 AM | Permalink


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What about Art. I, Section 6, cl.2: "... no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office." I'm fairly sure U.S. Sentencing Commissioner is an Office of the U.S. Indeed, given the breadth of their power and the limited oversight, I'd imagine they're principal officers, which is consistent with the fact that they're Presidentally appointed and Senate Confirmed.

Posted by: Hash | Jul 8, 2008 11:27:11 AM

Hopefully, Sen. Webb's views on sentencing and other legal areas will rub off on his fellow politicians. In general, there must be a change in the concept of "tough on crime" to take a more realistic approach to criminal activity.

Posted by: JT | Jul 8, 2008 2:28:21 PM

I think Hash is correct. In Mistretta v. United States, the Supreme Court held that the service of federal judges on the Sentencing Commission is constitutional in part because Art. I, Sec. 6 specifically prohibits members of Congress from holding other federal offices but contains no similar provision for federal judges.

Posted by: James Dillon | Jul 8, 2008 4:28:07 PM

Dang Framers putting the kibosh on all my great ideas....

So maybe then we just need to make Webb an ex officio member, like the DOJ rep. After all if the executive branch gets and ex officio member, perhaps the legisltive branch should get one, too.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jul 8, 2008 6:01:49 PM

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