Friday, July 09, 2004

More Mandatory Minimums

Well, we now know how Rep. Howard Coble (R - North Carolina) feels:

I have stated previously that opponents of mandatory minimums would have a far stronger argument if they could assure Congress that federal judges were faithfully adhering to the federal sentencing guidelines. Sadly, that is not always the case. Moreover, only recently, the Supreme Court in Blakely v.Washington has cast doubt upon the continued viability of the federal sentencing guidelines. While neither Congress nor the judiciary should react in haste without thoughtful consideration of the decision, it seems clear that mandatory minimums may well take on added importance in assuring appropriate sentences for serious federal crimes as a result of the Supreme Court's action.

(Taken from his testimony on July 6, before the House Judiciary Committee)

This is my big concern about the fall-out from Blakely. I don't think, in the long run, that Blakely--on its own terms--would change the equilibrium of sentencing. In the short-run, though, the havoc it causes and the destabilization of the guidelines will provide additional grist for those who would like to "reign in" judicial discretion and ratchet up severity in sentencing.

Rep. Coble, and others like him, are much more likely in the current political climate to effectively use this decision as a cynical and opportunistic front for more regressive sentencing.
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