Thursday, June 14, 2007
From usatoday.com: The Bush administration is trying to roll back a Supreme Court decision by pushing legislation that would require prison time for nearly all criminals.
The Justice Department is offering the plan as an opening salvo in a larger debate about whether sentences for crack cocaine are unfairly harsh and racially discriminatory.
Judges, however, were livid over the proposal to limit their power.
"This would require one-size-fits-all justice," said U.S. District Judge Paul G. Cassell, chairman of the Criminal Law committee of the Judicial Conference, the judicial branch's policy-making body.
"The vast majority of the public would like the judges to make the individualized decisions needed to make these very difficult sentencing decisions," Cassell said. "Judges are the ones who look the defendants in the eyes. They hear from the victims. They hear from the prosecutors."
The debate, pitting prosecutors against jurists, has been ongoing since a 2005 Supreme Court ruling that declared the government's two decades-old sentencing guidelines unconstitutional. The ruling in United States v. Booker said judges are not required to abide by the federal guidelines -- which set mandatory minimum and maximums on sentences -- but could consider them in meting out prison time.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]