« Reviewing a handful of the latest ugly prison pandemic headlines | Main | Federal inmate population, as reported by BOP, continues steady decline (which continues my wondering about data) »

May 27, 2020

With his return to blogging, is Bill Otis no longer a potential nominee for the US Sentencing Commission?

Long-time readers should be familiar with the name Bill Otis, not only because he was for years a regular commentor on this blog, but also because he is a prominent former federal prosecutor who often prominently shared his (tough-on-crime) sentencing perspectives in many media.  We have not heard much from Bill in a few years; his recent quietness seemed a direct result of Bill being tapped to be one of Prez Trump's notable March 2018 nominations to the US Sentencing Commission. 

I surmise that when anyone is a Presidential nominee (or thought likely to be a nominee), it is considered good form for that nominee to stay relatively mum during the confirmation process.  And Bill Otis was not just any nominee: though usually only hard-core sentencing nerds pay much attention to USSC nominations, Prez Trump's entire slate of nominees, and especially the naming of Bill Otis, prompted considerable critical commentary from various sources (covered in posts here and here).  Perhaps in part because these nominees were controversial, the Senate never acted on them in 2018 and the nominations lapsed when the "old" Senate officially adjourned.  But, as noted in this post from January 2019, the folks at FAMM were so troubled by the notion of Bill Otis potentially being nominated again, they produced this press release and sent this long letter to Prez Trump "discouraging the re-nomination of William Otis to the U.S. Sentencing Commission." 

Because Bill Otis was remaining quiet through 2019 and early 2020 amidst all sorts of notable and high-profile federal sentencing stories (from Michael Cohen to Felicity Huffman to Paul Manifort to Roger Stone), I figured the folks at FAMM were right to think there remained a real possibility of Bill Otis being nominated again to the USSC.  But, to my surprise, yesterday Bill started blogging again at Crime & Consequences, and he now has posted these two lengthy new entries on the Flynn kerfuffle: "Five Bad Arguments for Gen. Flynn" and "The Winning Argument for Gen. Flynn."  I consider Bill a friend, and I have previously noted how Bill and I have spent considerable time disagreeing on many sentencing matters without being too disagreeable. 

Especially because the fate of the U.S. Sentencing Commission matters a lot more than the fate of one high-profile, white-collar defendant, I am struck more by the fact that Bill Otis is blogging again after a 27-month hiatus than about his latest posts.  And his blogging leads me to wonder, as my post title indicates, whether this tells us something important about potential future USSC nominations.  With the general election now just over five months away, perhaps everyone, including Bill, is now just assuming we will not get any new USSC nominations until 2021 and until after the 2020 election clarifies or recasts political thinking about federal sentencing law and policy.  But maybe there is even more to this story, and maybe even Bill will tell us in his blogging.  Stay tuned.

Prior related posts:

May 27, 2020 at 03:20 PM | Permalink


I did write an artful comment about Bill Otis, but it must have been lost so I'll try again.

Thank you for this notice that Bill Otis has returned to blogging. I always appreciated hearing his point of view. His thoughts are always articulate and clear and help everyone examine the validity of their own argument. You can't know the strength of the current if you never try to swim in it.

The dialogue he encourages and really demands is always helpful. In a discussion, you need a chorus not a solo. To take the metaphor a little too far I'll just say we shouldn't always sing to the choir. Just read his piece "Winning the Argument for General Flynn" that is linked above. It's bold, as always, and thought provoking. Opposing views need to be heard and contemplated.

Posted by: beth curtis | May 27, 2020 8:33:28 PM

I agree with Beth Curtis. We need powerful arguments on both sides of an issue to best resolve the question, and though I ofent differ with his conclusion, I concede that Bill Otis presents powerful arguments.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | May 28, 2020 11:12:39 AM

I'll be watching closely. Powerful arguments on both sides is a recipe for more of the same old entrenchment rather than resolution. Modern progressive arguments that are inclusive of worldly experience and trend, and with a clear vision for the future, fairer, enrichment of society, are what are needed - not more political diatribe and dogma.

Posted by: peter | May 29, 2020 5:47:03 AM

I understand Peter, but dismissing without listening has become quite toxic. You do know you also have a powerful argument, I have a painful argument myself.

Posted by: beth curtis | May 29, 2020 7:47:51 PM

Unfortunately the blog that features Mr. Otis, Crime and Consequences, no longer accepts comments. So much for dialog...

Posted by: Steve Milani | Jun 30, 2020 2:04:10 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB