Newsbrief: More Federal Judges Object to New Sentencing Discretion Limits 1/30/04

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items


recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed


The chorus of complaints from the federal judiciary over a new law limiting judges' discretion grew louder this week as the chief judges of the federal courts in the US 9th Circuit Court added their collective voice to the clamor. They are complaining about the Feeney amendment, named for its sponsor, Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL). The measure, attached to the politically popular Amber Alert bill, which passed in April, limits federal judges' ability to sentence defendants to lesser sentences than those called for in federal sentencing guidelines. It includes a provision that requires the Justice Department to report to Congress each time a judge grants such a downward departure from the guidelines.

Federal judges already chafing under the restrictions imposed by mandatory minimum sentences and sentencing guidelines, and sometimes appalled by being forced to apply them to low-level, nonviolent drug offenders, have reacted angrily to what they see as a further congressional and Justice Department usurpation of their powers. In September, the Judicial Conference of the United States, a group of 27 judges who set policy for the federal courts, voted unanimously to ask Congress to repeal the amendment. And in his year-end state of the courts speech, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court William Rehnquist lashed out at the amendment, saying it "could appear to be an unwarranted and ill-considered effort to intimidate individual judges in the performance of their judicial duties."

This week, the 15 chief district judges of the US 9th Circuit met in Laguna Beach, California. After the meeting, Judge John Coughenour of Seattle told the Associated Press the group had "virtual unanimity" in its disdain for the law. The amendment, which was the brainchild of the John Ashcroft Justice Department, was drafted without consulting judges, Coughenour said, and ignored the recommendations of the US Sentencing Commission, created by Congress expressly to set sentencing with such recommendations.

Judge Ancer Haggerty of Portland, Oregon, told the AP that Congress erred by using misleading statistics to suggest federal judges initiated most downward departures. "If you look at the overall number of times a judge supposedly departed, it was done at the request of the government in most cases," Haggerty said.

The 9th Circuit includes federal courts in Hawaii, Arizona, California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, as well as Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

And the black-robed rebellion against congressional efforts to mandate harsh prison sentences with little opportunity for judicial discretion festers.

-- END --
Link to Drug War Facts
Please make a generous donation to support Drug War Chronicle in 2007!          

PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle (formerly The Week Online with DRCNet is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Issue #322, 1/30/04 Colorado Cannabis Confrontation: A Patient and a State Judge Take on the Feds | Goose Creek School District Lawyers Blame Students for Raid | Here Today, Gone Tomorrow? San Francisco Panel Examines Drugs, Terror and Your Rights | Oakland to Regulate "Oaksterdam" Cannabis Dispensaries | Offer and Appeal: New Ink Stamps and Strobe Lights -- DRCNet Needs Your Support in 2004 | Newsbrief: Feds Cop Plea in Arizona Pain Doctor Case | Newsbrief: Mexico's Perpetual Drug War Brings New Talk of Legalization | Newsbrief: Bush's School Drug Testing Initiative Prompts House Bill to Begin Random Testing of School Kids | Newsbrief: Campaign Watch -- Kerry National Security Advisor Was Key Drug Warrior | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Scotland's First Cannabis Café Opens | Newsbrief: British Government Drug Expert Calls for Ecstasy Downgrade | Newsbrief: More Federal Judges Object to New Sentencing Discretion Limits | Newsbrief: Leading Georgia Prosecutor Slams Drug War, But Only as He Retires | This Week in History | DRCNet Temporarily Suspending Our Web-Based Write-to-Congress Service Due to Funding Shortfalls -- Your Help Can Bring It Back -- Keep Contacting Congress in the Meantime | The Reformer's Calendar

This issue -- main page
This issue -- single-file printer version
Drug War Chronicle -- main page
Chronicle archives
Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en EspaŮol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em PortuguÍs Latest News Drug Library Search
special friends links: SSDP - Flex Your Rights - IAL - Drug War Facts the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20009 Phone (202) 293-8340 Fax (202) 293-8344 [email protected]