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   Justices Widen Sentencing Powers of Federal Judges

NEWS INFORMATION

Parent

Parent

News Date

12/10/2007 5:00 pm

Author

Media

New York Times

Category

Legal Ruling

Database Record

Entered 12/10/2007, Updated 12/10/2007

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The Supreme Court today enhanced the power of federal district judges to use their discretion in arriving at sentences in criminal cases as it upheld a relatively light sentence imposed on a crack cocaine distributor. By 7 to 2, the court held that “the cocaine guidelines, like all other guidelines, are advisory only,” in the words of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote for the majority. She cited a 2005 Supreme Court decision, United States v. Booker, that “mandatory guidelines” in federal cases gave judges too much fact-finding responsibility, and that the guidelines should be “advisory” instead. The majority concluded today that a district judge in Virginia acted properly in April 2005 when he refused to follow federal sentencing guidelines calling for far harsher penalties for trafficking in crack cocaine than they do for dealing in the powder form of the drug. In a nutshell, the effect of this ruling is to give sentencing judges considerably more discretion in criminal cases.


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