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December 4, 2022

Latest issues of FSR providing new advice to a new US Sentencing Commission (and lots more)

M_fsr.2022.35.1.coverI have had the great pleasure this Fall to be working on two issues of the Federal Sentencing Reporter with all sorts of commentaries providing all sorts of advice for the all the new members of the US Sentencing Commission.  The first of these issues, titled "21st Century Advice to the New Commissioners," is now available online here.  This issue includes more than a half-dozen original articles authored by judges, federal prosecutors and defenders, and policy advocates.  Prof Steve Chanenson and I authored this introductory essay, titled "Another (Not Quite) Fresh Start," which has this abstract:

As the famed legal scholar Yogi Berra once observed, “It’s like deja vu all over again.”  Those wise words can describe the U.S. Sentencing Commission.  Once again, we find ourselves with a fresh, full-strength Commission brimming with all the promise and excitement that comes with a new opportunity to reexamine federal sentencing law and practice. That is the good news.  What brought us to this moment, however, is the not-so-good news, which merits a brief trip down an unpleasant memory lane.  This is not the first time that the Commission has lacked a quorum.  This latest and longest episode of Commission paralysis strikes us as particularly disturbing because it may reflect a widespread lack of faith in — or at least a notable dearth of enthusiasm for — the work of the Commission and the guidelines enterprise more generally. Like baseball fans on opening day, we remain hopeful about the future.  The new Commissioners are well-regarded professionals who come to their common task in good faith — bringing their own, varied views.  They face a mix of urgent new challenges and important enduring ones.  We add our voices to those over the decades who hope that the Commissioners will think broadly (including by reexamining long-established assumptions) and act boldly.

This October 2022 issue of FSR also includes a series of materials and articles providing "Perspectives on Recidivism and Long Sentences." And, as suggested above, the December 2022 issue of FSR will have additional commentaries providing additional advice for the new USSC.

December 4, 2022 at 10:18 AM | Permalink


Sadly, the work that must be done to the Sentencing Guidelines and the criminal justice system as a whole cannot be done solely by the Sentencing Commission. It's going to take a group effort---Congress, the Executive Branch , the Judicial branch and the American People as a whole.

We must ask ourselves the gravely serious question of how in our system of American democracy did we allow a statute such as the Sentencing Guidelines---which authorizes the imposition of punishment for uncharged, acquitted and/or dismissed crimes, to ever be promulgated. The enactment of such a system harkens back to the sordid past of our beloved country and forces us as a nation to ask very difficult questions that we have thus far been unwilling to ask.

The only news I am interested in hearing from the Sentencing Commission is that there are discussions to mandate guideline enhancements to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. That's the start of a system that needs to be totally reformed from top to the bottom.

Posted by: Eric Hicks | Dec 5, 2022 8:12:46 AM

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