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December 8, 2010

Federal sentencing litigation at its absolute finest

The title of this post is a fitting description of what I experienced this morning in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas of the Southern District of New York. 

As regular readers know, I have been troubled by the Justice Department's view that any defendant who committed a crack offense before the enactment of the Fair Sentencing Act should get no benefit from the the FSA's statutory provisions. And, with the help of a terrific attorney litigating this issue for a client awaiting with a case pending before Judge Karas, I had the opportunity to submit a couple amicus letters (discussed here and here) setting out my thoughts about why the FSA's provisions should be applied to cases in the pipeline that have not yet been sentenced.

Today was argument day in the White Plains courthouse of the SDNY, and Judge Karas devoted three hours to hearing argument from numerous defense counsel and from me and from the Government.  At every stage of the proceeding today, I was wowed by the effectiveness, insightfulness and kindness of all the litigating and especially Judge Karas.  I feel confident asserting that the level of argument and legal discourse in this district court (as well as the copious briefing that came before the argument) rivaled what one expects before the Courts of Appeals or even the Supreme Court.

I always hope and expect that federal district courts will give as much time and attention to sentencing issues as do appellate courts, but busy dockets and busy litigants do not always make that possible.  In this case, my hopes and expectations were not only met, but exceeded.  And I could gush on at length about many facets of the experience, but at this point I have probably already given the parties involved a justified sense of how impressed I was by their efforts and how grateful I was to be able to participate in this (not so?) little facet of federal criminal justice administration.

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December 8, 2010 at 03:17 PM | Permalink


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written order to follow? was sentence imposed?

Posted by: Benson Weintraub | Dec 8, 2010 5:13:28 PM

Taken under submission, and I expect/hope that a written order will follow before too long.

Posted by: Doug | Dec 8, 2010 7:01:52 PM

Judge Karas was the definition of a "Hot Bench" and the arguments of all the litigants were on point and persuasive. Prof. Berman, above this sea of litigants, stood out not only for the content of his argument but the passion he brought to the issue. I hope and would not hesitate as a defense lawyer to enlist the Professor's assistance in the future in the appropariate case, if he is willing and available.

Posted by: Gerald J. Di Chiara | Dec 9, 2010 4:22:54 PM

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