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February 18, 2010

"Judicial Discrection: A Look Back and a Look Forward Five Years After Booker"

The title of this post is the title of this terrific symposium about federal sentencing law in which I am participating today.  Though sponsored by the University of Utah, I am actually about to head to DC to participate in the event from inside the Beltway, along with some of the other of these impressive participants:

Here is how the promotional materials describe the event:

This symposium will explore issues surrounding judicial discretion and sentencing.  After opening remarks from Judge William K. Sessions III, Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, panelists will explore the extent to which the sentencing guidelines continue to provide useful guidance to judges five years after the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Booker.  The panelists will also explore mandatory minimum sentencing schemes and ask whether they usefully impose tough punishment or inappropriately restrict the ability of judges to make the punishment fit the crime.  The symposium will conclude with a general discussion of sentencing issues and provide an opportunity to audience members to ask questions of the participants.

Excitingly, folks can watch this event live online (as well as comment below) thanks to the magic of the internet and a link at dashboard.law.utah.edu.

February 18, 2010 at 08:07 AM | Permalink


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Hmmm. Why are there no private criminal defense attorneys or federal defenders on the panel? Having a rep from DOJ without a countervailing presence creates the appearance of bias.

Posted by: defendergirl | Feb 18, 2010 9:52:39 AM

I was present and wanted you to know that the panel was fantastic. Thanks for your time and comments. And defendergirl, it doesn't say it but Ben McMurray is a federal defender here.

Posted by: utdefense | Feb 18, 2010 3:58:44 PM

I believe this panel was stacked 6-1 (including Prof. Berman) with people known in advance to be either mostly or entirely opposed to mandatory minimums. And the one in favor, my former colleague Jonathan Wroblewski, while a knowledgeable and experienced DOJ attorney, is not what one would call a zealot in supporting them.

This is the academy's idea of "balance," I guess.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 18, 2010 10:46:45 PM

Sole element of interest? Participants did not travel to Utah in winter. They met electronically. The content was most likely left wing bs.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 19, 2010 6:21:34 AM

Left wing BS? You've obviously never appeared in front of Cassell when he was on the bench. Hardly what one would consider "left wing." I don't believe his ruling that declined to extend Fourth Amendment rights to non-citizens would be considered left of anything except the most fervent conservatives. Other than his advocating for the repeal of mandatory minimums, there is little that he has supported on the putatively "liberal" agenda.

Posted by: UTAH ATTY | Feb 19, 2010 10:22:21 AM

Utah: Left means increasing the size of government, just to use the same vocabulary. He is the advocate for victim impact statements during sentencing. This is ex parte testimony that violates the Confrontation Clause, but he does not care. We know the impact on the victim is bad. A theatrical display should not influence a court and not another.


Eventually, the victims will get a right to representation. And yet another, worthless stream of lawyer sinecures will have been generated.

If he cared, he should organize these victims and their families into direct action groups. They would physically attack criminals, cane twice, kill once. Only 1 in 10 is ever disturbed from criminal activities by the authorities. Then physically punish biased judges and prosecutors. If torts is a substitute for violence for the incompetence and carelessness of these slacking government worker, then the obverse in formal logic is true. Their absolute and self-dealt immunity justifies violence. Physical safety is Job 1 and Job Last of government. When government fails, and looks out only for itself, there is good moral and intellectual justification for self-help.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 19, 2010 2:48:26 PM

As an individual who recently flew into a building in Austin thought...

I know SC is an avatar not meant to be taken literally, but really chap, the call for violence is going too far, even as a joke. The only people allowed to openly advocate revolution and violence are Texas governors and teabaggers, and I sincerely doubt you're either one of them.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Feb 19, 2010 3:25:17 PM

Res: Huge crimes, or frequent crimes cannot continue without the forbearance of government. Naturally, you say nothing about the 5 million victims of violent crime each year.

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