January 13, 2005

"I'm really elated, and I think most judges will be, too."

Instead of puzzling through the Supreme Court's knotty opinion in the Sentencing Guidelines case, let's look at how judges are reacting to it:
"I'm really elated, and I think most judges will be, too," Judge Jack B. Weinstein of Federal District Court in Brooklyn said. "It gives us the discretion to deal with individual cases without being unnecessarily harsh. This is now, if Congress leaves it, a marvelous system."

So, the inquiry turns to Congress. What are the pressures and motivations here?

The Supreme Court has taken a constitutional flaw in the Guidelines (which were meant to restrict judges) and fashioned a remedy that keeps the Guidelines in some sense but restores discretion in sentencing to the judges. The judges are "elated," but Congress may want to reassert its control over the judges.

As noted in the linked article (by Carl Hulse and Adam Liptak in the NYT), just last year Congress started requiring the United States Sentencing Commission to feed it information about which federal judges weren't following the Guidelines, an attempt to control those terrible federal judges who have the audacity to imagine that they occupy an independent branch of the federal government supposedly accountable to something they arrogantly call "law" and not to the will of Congress.

So here we go into a new season of judge-bashing (and, from the other side, judge-defending), which should go quite nicely with whatever new judicial nominations may happen to come up.

No comments: