Thirty years ago, the U.S. Sentencing Commission established the first-ever set of federal sentencing guidelines. Those initial Guidelines received a chilly reception as more than 200 federal judges found them unconstitutional. Although the Supreme Court’s United States v. Booker decision in 2005 upheld the basic structure of the Guidelines, it recast them as “effectively advisory” to allow judges to continue applying the Guidelines consistent with new Sixth Amendment jurisprudence.
The Booker ruling stated Congress was free to devise a different system moving forward. More than a dozen years and nearly a million federal sentences later, Congress has yet to act despite diverse criticisms of the Supreme Court’s advisory sentencing scheme. This spotlights an enduring question: What is the proper relationship between the legislative and judicial branches in determining sentencing policy?
On May 17, please join the Charles Koch Institute, the Federal Sentencing Reporter, and the Law & Economics Center at George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School as we explore this question and discuss how we can learn from the past to improve present and future federal sentencing policy.
Judge William H. Pryor
Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa
Judge Patti B. Saris
Vikrant P. Reddy