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October 14, 2012

"The Skeptic's Guide to Information Sharing at Sentencing"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new article by ProfessorRyan Scott, which is now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

The “information sharing model,” a leading method of structuring judicial discretion at the sentencing stage of criminal cases, has attracted broad support from scholars and judges.  Under this approach, sentencing judges should have access to a robust body of information, including written opinions and statistics, about previous sentences in similar cases.  According to proponents, judges armed with that information can conform their sentences to those of their colleagues or identify principled reasons for distinguishing them, reducing inter-judge disparity and promoting rationality in sentencing law.

This Article takes a skeptical view of the information sharing model, arguing that it suffers from three fundamental weaknesses as an alternative to other structured sentencing reforms. First, there are information collection challenges.  To succeed, the model requires sentencing information that is written, comprehensive, and representative.  Due to acute time constraints, however, courts cannot routinely generate that kind of information.  Second, there are information dissemination challenges.  Sharing sentencing information raises concerns about the privacy of offenders and victims.  Also, the volume and complexity of sentencing decisions create practical difficulties in making relevant information accessible to sentencing judges.  Third, the model’s voluntariness is an important drawback.  The information sharing model rests on the heroic assumption that judges will respond to information about previous sentences by dutifully following the decisions of their colleagues.  That is unrealistic.  Judges just as easily can disregard the information, ignore it, or even move in the opposite direction.

Despite those grounds for skepticism, information sharing can play a valuable role as a supplement to other sentencing reforms.  In particular, information sharing would benefit from a system of sentencing guidelines, whether mandatory or advisory, and from open access to the information on the part of defense counsel and prosecutors.

October 14, 2012 at 10:13 PM | Permalink


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We know one thing. The lawyer on the bench owes his job to the criminal, and not to the victim. This internal traitor will always coddle the criminal and care nothing about victims. This lawyer internal traitor cannot even say the V word out loud. This government employee is a lazy, stupid, often a political loser appointed or elected by party hacks. Most judges have failed in legal practice, and are too stupid for it. They are totally biased in favor of more lawyer procedure, and take political contributions from lawyers.

Groups of victims, their families should identify these friends of criminals. Then run them out of town, through physical means. These are fully justified by their tort liability immunity. This immunity is self-dealt and has no legal, logical, or policy justification. These are toxic, careless, heartless lawyers, with full foreseeability of the consequences of their pro-criminal decisions. This foreseeability is in the same category as planetary orbits. There will be 20 million FBI Index felonies this year, and every year for the foreseeable future. Night riders would have full moral and philosophical justification, even in formal logic, to tie these lawyers to a tree outside the court, and to apply 50 lashes. To deter.

The political affiliation, even if extremely conservative, does not matter. Lawyer rent seeking trumps all political affiliation. By their protection and coddling of criminals, these lawyers are the proximate cause of every crime in this country. That is because all criminals are known to the public by age 3. Blacks are 7 times more likely to be victimized. Therefore the work of these lawyers fall heaviest on that population.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 15, 2012 1:56:56 AM

We all know that any information about sentencing will always be sparse. The reason is because there'd be so much outrage once everyone finds out how little consideration is given regarding people's lives.

Posted by: Jill Streams | Oct 15, 2012 11:03:01 AM

Illinois law, at least, would seem to stand against this type of information sharing. When reviewing sentences, Illinois appellate courts are forbidden to survey cases with similar facts to see how the sentence under review compares with others. People v. Fern, 189 Ill. 2d 48, 53 (1999).

Posted by: Michael Orenstein | Oct 15, 2012 12:19:01 PM

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