September 13, 2004

Mandatory Minimums

One of the other good things in yesterday's Times was this story by Adam Liptak that points out that the Federal Sentencing Guidelines themselves may not be as big a problem in today's legal system as our continual adoption of mandatory minimum laws. The possible sentences allowed in the case Liptak focuses on show that these can end up being nonsensical, and I think it's important that this story is framed in a way that shows this is not a partisan issue. People on both sides of the aisle are worried that in today's environment too often the punishment does not fit the crime. Or if it does, we've developed some really unexpected priorities about what are the worst offenses in our society.

Posted by armand at September 13, 2004 10:51 AM | TrackBack | Posted to Law and the Courts


i recently had occasion to meet with one of the 29 former judges and prosecutors (he is, in fact, both a former U.S. Attorney and a former Article III judge) who has signed on to the amicus brief in support of angelenos mentioned in the article.

his commitment to judicial discretion in sentencing was quite palpable, and he was emphatic that it is a commitment shared by a huge supermajority among judges. in a friendly conversation, his ire was noticeably raised at the very thought of the sentences this guy faces. he was careful to note that the people signing onto the amicus brief were from both sides of the aisle, and were, as former prosecutors, not generally the types who are soft on crime.

the system is broken. and it's getting worse. we need a strong judiciary that will stand up to congress and defend its coequal role in the balance of powers that has grown ever so imbalanced of late.

it's not activism to return to the basic premises of marbury -- neither the framers nor the constitution they constructed envisaged a supreme court that would play lapdog to the partisan legislature on matters of criminal justice.

Posted by: joshua at September 13, 2004 12:14 PM | PERMALINK
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