Monday, August 02, 2010

Crack and SCOTUS

Hopefully, everyone's heard that Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, reducing the crack--powder disparity. The bill is not retroactive. It raises the minimum quantity of crack that triggers the 5-year mandatory minimum from 5 grams to 28 grams; and for the 10-year mandatory minimum, it raises the quantity from 50 grams to 280 grams. The amount of powder cocaine required to trigger the 5- and 10-year mandatory minimums has not changed (500 grams and 5 kilos). The bill also eliminates the mandatory minimum for simple possession of crack. The crack--powder disparity has shifted from 100:1 to 18:1.
SCOTUS: granted cert in Pepper v. United States, No. 09-6822 (June 28, 2010).
* Whether district courts can consider a defendant’s post-sentencing rehabilitation as a factor supporting a downward variance under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).

* Whether, as a sentencing factor under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), post-sentencing rehabilitation should be treated the same way as post-offense rehabilitation.

* Whether, when the original district judge does not resentence a defendant after remand, and a new judge is assigned, the new judge is obligated under the doctrine of the “law of the case” to follow the sentencing findings of the original judge (those that were affirmed on appeal).


RS said...

I believe that the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act is a big step in the right direction.

One could, as I'm inclined to do, give Congress the benefit of the doubt and assume that this sentencing policy wasn't originally motivated by racism. Maybe it was a knee-jerk reaction to the devastation crack was bringing to urban communities in the early 80s, and frantic calls by constituents to "Do Something."

But when the results of this disparity became apparent years ago, the law should have been changed. Better late than never, I suppose.

Clare Freeman, RWS, WD Mich said...

I'm with you: better late than never.