Two set of brothers, two different First Step Act results

In United States v. Domenech, the Sixth Circuit added to its growing set of First Step Act opinions. There, two brothers again appealed the denial of their motions for sentence reductions under the First Step Act. The Sixth Circuit remanded for reconsideration–and granted reassignment to a new judge. 

This appeal was the second for the brothers. In their first round, the Sixth Circuit remanded because the district court failed to treat their reduced guidelines ranges as its initial benchmark. After that remand, the brothers re-briefed the issues and raised arguments about nonretroactive changes to the law. They were again denied, with the district court district court retaining their sentences, relying on the same justifications. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit remanded again, holding that under Concepcion v. United States, 142 S. Ct. 2389 (2022), the court failed to “consider and reason through” all reasonable arguments, including those about nonretroactive changes to the law. Because the district court had repeated its error, the Court granted the brothers’ request for reassignment, a rare remedy. 

Just a few weeks earlier, a different set of brothers raising a similar argument received a different result. In United States v. Woods, 61 F.4th 471 (6th Cir. 2023), the court denied the Woods brothers’ First Step Act appeals. Although the district court relied on the erroneous conclusion that they were career offenders, the issue wasn’t preserved and didn’t rise to the level of manifest injustice. 

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