Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why aren't more judges speaking out against the guidelines?

Here's an article about Judge John Gleeson's recent response to DOJ's criticism of fraud sentences:

A federal judge in Brooklyn has rebutted the criticism by a top Department of Justice official that many federal judges have "lost" their "moorings to the sentencing guidelines" in major fraud cases.
The attack on a "regime" of judges who impose fraud sentences "inconsistently and without regard to the federal sentencing guidelines" appeared in a letter
sent in June by Jonathan J. Wroblewski, the director of the Office of Policy and Legislation to the chief of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Judge William K. Sessions III.
Last week, Eastern District Judge John Gleeson responded to Wroblewski's implication that, as Gleeson put it, fraud sentences "are inexplicably and unjustifiably all over the lot."
In a 16-page "statement of reasons" for a fraud sentence, Gleeson wrote that the discrepancies between guideline sentences and actual sentences is not evidence of the unmooring of judges, but rather indicative of the difficulty of capturing the nuances of a complex case in a list of guidelines.
The 539-page Sentencing Guidelines Manual is only one of eight factors that judges are statutorily required to consider at sentencing, Gleeson added.
He also noted that if judges had truly become unmoored from the guidelines, then prosecutors would appeal sentences more frequently -- only 18 of the 1,711 below-range fraud sentences issued last year were appealed.
"[I]n determining whether reforms are needed, and especially in determining whether the existing guideline should be burdened with even more adjustments, the Commission should examine whether our system already provides an adequate solution for the claimed 'unacceptable' outcomes the Department complains about," Gleeson wrote in
United States v. Ovid, 09-CR-216. "I suggest that it does, in the form of appellate review, and for all of the handwringing in the DOJ Letter about unacceptable sentences, the Department for the most part has not even tried to avail itself of that solution."

Gleeson is no push over. He is a former federal prosecutor and the prosecutor who put away John Gotti. He's tough but he's known as fair and extremely smart. I'm hoping that, like Gleeson and others are doing, more and more judges will start to stand up to these draconian guidelines that have no relationship to the goals of sentencing.

Hat tip -- Sentencing Law and Policy


Anonymous said...

Go to (not a typo) to see your next Florida attorney general running from office.

Vote for Dan Gelber,

Rumpole said...

Judge Gleeson was a formidable prosecutor and was everything you would want in a prosecutor. Honest. Hard working. Fair. And he is more of the same as a judge.