Monday, August 09, 2004
Not Another Manic Monday
A recent US Supreme Court decision on sentencing guidelines is causing widespread disruption in Boston's federal courts, leading one judge to issue three different sentences to one defendant this week and a second judge to free a convicted drug trafficker, while dozens of other cases have been left in doubt.
The article documents the building backlog of defendants awaiting sentencing as courts wait for the Supreme Court to decide Blakely Part II. The article also describes the practice of some judges, which rather than wait, are issuing up to 3 different sentences.
The news in Minnesota has focused on the state’s sentencing guidelines. An AP article entitled, “Panel says state sentencing system safe from major overhaul,” describes the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission report which more or less says that the state’s guidelines are sound. The commission report recommends that the state “go slow” with whatever reforms are needed. Where have I heard that before?
The ABA Journal has an article entitled, "Compound Sentencing Problems." Take a look at this provocative quote from the article, which is in reference to the Supreme Court:
"Anytime they get into any kind of substantive criminal law issue, they generally screw things up," says University of Pennsylvania law professor Paul H. Robinson. As a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Robinson cast the lone vote against the original federal guidelines in 1987.
Tom Goldstein of the SCOTUS blog (and NACDL amicus brief contributor) has this to say:
"This may be a sort of trigger for rethinking the entire federal system," Goldstein says. "But the justices can’t legislate, so the question is whether they’ll put in a stopgap measure and hope that Congress acts."
(Thanks go to James K. for pointing this out)
Update: I missed a good editorial this morning by Erik Luna, associate professor of law at the University of Utah. He writes, "Let judges do their job." Professor Luna notes in the article, "I can't help humming the refrain from R.E.M.'s 1987 rock ditty: 'It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.'" All kidding aside, this is a recommended read.