Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Federal sentencing guideline hearings

7th. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook last week joined a growing number of judges and prosecutors having the position that the federal sentencing guidelines are in need of revamping, especially in light of decisions made by the Supreme Court making them largely advisory several years ago beginning with U.S. v. Booker in 2005.

Judge Easterbrook, in testimony before the Commission in Chicago, had two specific proposals, according to a National Law Journal article last Monday. "First," the article cites Easterbrook as saying, "the ranges should be made longer -- currently, a 25 percent spread is allowed between the number of months at the bottom and the number of months at the top of the range. And second, the ranges should overlap with each other more so that the possible prison times in one range overlap more with the possible prison times in the next most lenient and the next harshest ranges."

"These two changes," Easterbrook said, "will reduce the need to make precise findings that do not affect the outcome, and thus save time for both district and appellate judges without sacrificing any of the statutory goals."

The hearings in Chicago follow earlier sessions in New York, Atlanta, and Stanford, Calif., with more to come in Denver next month; Austin, Texas, in November; and Phoenix in January.

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