May 27, 2010
Holder Memo - "Individualized Assessment"
AG Eric Holder issued a Memorandum on Department Policy on Charging and Sentencing that is different from former AG Ashcroft's Memo of 2003. It's a 2 1/2 page Memo with the term "individualized assessment" used four times, and "individualized justice" used one time. These terms tell the story of the Memo that moves policy from strict uniformity to understanding that not all people and cases are alike. He says it best when he states that "equal justice depends on individualized justice, and smart law enforcement demands it." The Memo repeals two prior memos of Deputy Attorney General Comey, and the charging and sentencing memo of 2003 issued by Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Although the Memo aims for similar treatment for those who commit similar crimes and have the same culpability, it recognizes individuality and unique circumstances. It is wonderful to see included in this Memo an Attorney General's statement that "[p]rosecutors must always be mindful of our duty to ensure that these decisions are made without unwarranted consideration of such factors as race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation." It is also wonderful to see that new AUSAs can't just charge individuals haphazardly as "[a]ll charging decisions must be reviewed by a supervisory attorney."
One of the most commendable aspects of this Memo is the AG's statement that "[c]harges should not be filed simply to exert leverage to induce a plea..."
The new Department of Justice is definitely moving to restore respect and professionalism to this important office.
Memo - Download HolderMemo
See also Ryan J. Reilly, Main Justice, Holder Issues New Charging, Sentencing Guidelines
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