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May 11, 2022

Prez Biden finally announces a full slate of nominees to the US Sentencing Commission

As I have noted in a number of prior posts (some linked below), due to a lack of Commissioners, the US Sentencing Commission has lacked a quorum needed to fully function for well over three years, and the USSC has not had complete set of commissioners firmly in place for nearly decade.  The USSC staff has completed lots of useful research and reports in the interim; but, with the FIRST STEP Act's passage in December 2018, it has been particularly problematic for the USSC to be non-functional in terms of formal amendments or agendas in recent years.

But today, nearly 16 month into his Administration, President Joe Biden has finally announced a full slate of seven Commissioner nominations to the US Sentencing Commission.  Here is the official announcement, headlined "President Biden Nominates Bipartisan Slate for the United States Sentencing Commission," and the basics about the seven nominees (which by statute have to be bipartisan and include at least three judges):

President Biden is announcing seven experienced and qualified nominees for the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a bipartisan independent agency created during the Reagan Administration.  The Commission was created to reduce sentencing disparities and promote transparency and proportionality in criminal sentencing. 

The Commission has lacked a quorum since 2019, which has prevented it from doing critical business. Today, President Biden is pleased to announce the nominations of these individuals — a bipartisan slate including the first Black chair of the organization — whose confirmations would allow the Commission to conduct its important work. 

Judge Carlton W. Reeves: Nominee for Commissioner and Chair of the United States Sentencing Commission

Judge Carlton W. Reeves has served as a United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi since 2010....

Laura Mate: Nominee for Commissioner and Vice Chair of the United States Sentencing Commission

Laura Mate has served as the Director of Sentencing Resource Counsel, a project of the Federal Public and Community Defenders in the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Arizona, since 2021 and from 2010 to 2021 was a member of Sentencing Resource Counsel....

Claire McCusker Murray: Nominee for Commissioner and Vice Chair of the United States Sentencing Commission

Claire McCusker Murray served as the Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General of the United States Department of Justice from 2019 to 2021....

Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo: Nominee for Commissioner and Vice Chair of the United States Sentencing Commission

Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo has served as a United States Court of Appeals Judge for the Third Circuit since 2016....

Judge Claria Horn Boom: Nominee for Commissioner of the United States Sentencing Commission

Judge Claria Horn Boom has served as a United States District Court Judge for the Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky since 2018....

Judge John Gleeson: Nominee for Commissioner of the United States Sentencing Commission

Judge John Gleeson is a partner at Debevoise and Plimpton LLP in New York, where he has practiced since 2016....

Candice C. Wong: Nominee for Commissioner of the United States Sentencing Commission

Candice C. Wong serves as an Assistant United States Attorney and Chief of the Violence Reduction and Trafficking Offenses Section in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia....

Because these selections have surely been made in consultation with Senate leadership, I am reasonably hopeful that hearings and a confirmation of these nominees could proceed swiftly.  (But that may be wishful thinking, as was my thinking that these needed nominees would come a lot sooner.)  There is lots of work ahead for these nominees (and lots of blog posts to follow about them and their likely agenda), but for now I will be content with just a "Huzzah!"

A few of many prior recent related posts:

May 11, 2022 at 10:52 AM | Permalink


As you know, both Restrepo and Boom were under consideration by the previous admin—plus Restrepo was already suggested by the Judicial Conference, so those seem like obvious choices. I don't know from the DOJ and FD people. Gleeson is a known quantity of course. I just hope they have a good and fast replacement lined up if Restrepo makes the move from CA3. It'd be nice to pick up a DCT seat (Boom) too, but it's much lower priority. (Certainly they shouldn't drop the ball on holding Reeves' seat either.)

Posted by: kotod | May 11, 2022 1:09:53 PM

They don’t give up their judgeships.

Posted by: Whatever | May 11, 2022 1:19:52 PM

Thanks for reminding me. Even better then.

Also, LOL@ "nearly 16 month into his Administration" — oh no, a whole 60 days later, compared to the previous admin! What a disaster amirite? Of course, if Biden gets even a single one actually confirmed, he'll be infinitely more productive on that point.

Posted by: kd | May 11, 2022 1:27:20 PM

There was a functioning Commission, kd, when Trump took office, although it was down a few commissioners. Trump nominated 5 folks in 2018 that would have filled out the USSC, but his choices were not attuned to the politics of the moment and so did not move in the Senate. That was a failing by Prez Trump, though all CJ reform advocates are surely glad that Trump focused on getting the FIRST STEP Act enacted in 2018 rather than his USSC nominees. Indeed, most folks on the left and the right had a preference for a non-functioning USSC while Prez Trump was in office. But these folks also wanted Prez Biden to get the USSC back in business, and now Prez Biden has finally done his part. Here is hoping the Senate does its part ASAP.

Posted by: Doug B. | May 11, 2022 4:18:10 PM

"his choices were not attuned to the politics of the moment"
You mean they (the R-affiliated ones) were foaming-at-the-mouth reactionaries? Yeah, I totally agree!

"That was a failing by [Dotard]"
It sure was! Although, by his political failing, he saved us from being inflicted with said reactionaries. One of these days I'll probably get around to sending a thank you note.

"most folks on the left ... had a preference for a non-functioning USSC while [Dotard] was in office"
It's true, most folks on the left aren't big fans of reactionaries. Puzzling, that!

"[Dotard] focused on getting the FIRST STEP Act enacted"
It is just so precious how you think he's ever focused on anything other than (1) his own reflection, (2) ogling the bods of porn stars and his own daughter, or (3) vomiting all over social media. Were you born that naïve or did you have to really work on it?

Posted by: kotodama | May 12, 2022 12:31:36 AM

Berman threw much shade at BHO and now Biden. Trump not so much.

Posted by: Whatever | May 12, 2022 10:38:40 AM

kotodama, one of Trump's GOP picks in 2018 was the current USSC acting chair (Judge Pryor) and his D pick in 2018 is one of the persons Biden has tapped (Judge Restrepo). The other two (Judge Hudson and Bill Otis) are "tough-and-tougher" guys who, as I put it, "were not attuned to the politics of the moment." Given our current politics, and the GOP's obvious interest in leaning into the old "tough-and-tougher" playbook, I fear that "tough-and-tougher" brand could be gathering strength and impact a lot of federal sentencing reform debate in the months and years ahead.

As for Trump, as Prez and even today, he has a continuing ability to influence the views and votes of GOP members of Congress. (I found that troubling when he was Prez, and it continues to trouble me, but it is a continuing political and practical reality.) Presumably thanks to his son-in-law --- who always seemed eager to claim credit for the FIRST STEP Act --- Trump used his influence in 2018 to help get that major and meaningful bill to include sentencing reform and through a GOP Congress.

Meanwhile, Biden has now gotten us a politically viable slate of USSC nominees, and I hope they can get confirmed quickly and can start doing needed reform work. To his credit, he has also commuted the sentence of a bunch of folks already on home confinement. But we are still awaiting Biden making any significant effort to get any of a number of small and meaningful bills (EQUAL, Acquitted Conduct, FIRST STEP implementation, etc) through a Dem Congress.

Posted by: Doug B. | May 12, 2022 10:53:00 AM

I am ever eager to see any and all accountings, with a focus on sentencing, of the work of the Obama and Trump and Biden Administrations (though the last is still in progress). I think it could be quite interesting (though complicated) to try to line up the accomplishments of these various Admins on sentencing and corrections.

As I have explained before, I expected a whole lot (surely too much) from the Obama and Biden Administrations in the sentencing area; I expected very little (and still perhaps too much) from the Trump Administration in the sentencing area. Those expectations (and broader political and social realities) in many ways account for my tendency to express disappointment at what we have seen from the Obama and Biden Administrations in the sentencing area and my tendency to express pleasant surprise from the Trump Administration in the sentencing area. Call this grading on a curve or political realism, but Obama (and Biden so far) did a lot less than his base likely wanted/supported in the sentencing space, whereas Trump ended up doing a lot more than his base likely wanted/supported in the sentencing space.

Posted by: Doug B. | May 12, 2022 11:48:13 AM

The USSC seems like a mute-point when we all know that sentencing has never been fair and balanced when looked at racially. How is this Commission going to make that fair? Because for how ever long it has existed, sentencing always has been and continue to be one-sided. How was Mandatory Maximums allowed to exist along with Biden's 1994 Crime Bill which is widely known to be harsher on Black criminals even when they commit minor offenses? While others in our society can literally get away with murder and other malfeasance quite easily. How come the Commission is unable to balance out the punishment it metes out to the people who really deserves it? Crooked politicians aren't held accountable for any of the dastardly deeds they commit. Supreme Court nominees lie under oath, elected officials can be charged with heinous crimes, but no truth in sentencing is ever forthcoming. Not ever! And the first Black chair. Big deal! He'll simply have to prove he's not soft on crime and you know what that means . . . it's code for persecute and prosecute Black criminals harder than all other criminals. And there are lots of other criminals.

Posted by: RU Green | May 16, 2022 4:50:43 PM

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