December 11, 2016

Last call for mini-papers submission, first call for final paper inquiries/meetings/review

As explained in this prior post, an essential element of completing our course for credit is the submission of at least two mini papers, and the due date for these papers is the start of this coming week. ANy student struggling to meet this requirement should contact me ASAP.

With mini-papers now being wrapped up, students are welcomed and encouraged to meet with me or reach out in others way with any questions or concerns or desire for feedback concerning the final paper. I should be around the law school and generally available through Dec 23 (which is when the final paper is due), and I am eager to help anyone wanting/seeking help with the final paper assignment.

December 11, 2016 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (3)

December 04, 2016

Reviewing the final fulsome mini-paper opportunities

In a coming post, I will try to clarify any lingering questions students have about completing the final paper.  But as classes technically are not yet done, I want to first clarify student mini-paper opportunities/expectations.

First, to complete the course is a satisfactory manner, a student has to have submitted at least two mini-papers.  (If I have not received at least two mini-papers from a student by Dec 12, I will notify the student of the deficiency and its consequences.)

Second, every student is encouraged to earn extra credit by submitting more than the two-mini-paper minimum.  But all mini-papers need to be submitted no later than Dec 12 to receive full credit/extra credit for your work.

Third, I put forth the following three final mini-paper possibilities:

  1. Reviewing Prez Obama's sentencing reform legacy
  2. Recommending activities/concerns for Attorney General designee Jeff Sessions
  3. Assessing the sentencing history/views of one (or more) of the 21 persons on Prez-Elect Donald Trump's SCOTUS short-list

Among the benefits/challenges of completing a mini-paper on this topics is the possibility that I may ask to publish your analysis on my main blog or maybe even in the Federal Sentencing Reporter.

Any questions?

December 4, 2016 in Class activities, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 08, 2016

Gearing up for figuing the (right?) sentence for the various convicted "Bridgegate" federal criminals

As I mentioned in class today, our coming exploration of the federal sentencing system will be based in part on using the real-world "Bridgegate" case into a real-world sentencing exercise.  To get started in preparation to that end, I recommend some review of at least the following two links:

This Wikipedia page, titled "Fort Lee lane closure scandal" provides lots of background on the scandal, at it provides this very helpful initial summary of the crime and the three protagonists now facing federal sentencing:

The Fort Lee lane closure scandal, also known as the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, or Bridgegate, is a U.S. political scandal in which a staff member and political appointees of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) colluded to create traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey, by closing lanes at the main toll plaza for the upper level of the George Washington Bridge.

The problems began on Monday, September 9, 2013, when two of three toll lanes for a local street entrance were closed during morning rush hour. Local officials, emergency services, and the public were not notified of the lane closures, which Fort Lee declared a threat to public safety. The resulting back-ups and gridlock on local streets ended only when the two lanes were reopened on Friday, September 13, 2013, by an order from Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye. He said that the "hasty and ill-informed decision" could have endangered lives and violated federal and state laws.

The ensuing investigations centered on several of Christie's appointees and staff, including David Wildstein, who ordered the lanes closed, and Bill Baroni, who had told the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee that the closures were for a traffic study.

The United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul J. Fishman launched a massive federal investigation, resulting in a sweeping nine-count indictment against Bridget Anne Kelly, the deputy chief of staff, Baroni and Wildstein. Wildstein entered a guilty plea, and testified against Baroni and Kelly, who were found guilty on all counts in November 2016.

The copy of the plea agreement in which Mr. Wildstein agreed to plead guilty and which also has a copy of his charging "information."

November 8, 2016 in Aggravators and mitigators, Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Offense Conduct, Scope of imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 28, 2016

Two timely new commentaries in light of our Graham-based discussions of "legal" adulthood

I have been quite amused to see these two headlines on two notable commentaries published since our last class:

The first of these articles starts this way:

Consider three young people: An 18-year-old who can vote, but can’t legally buy a beer; a 21-year-old who can drink, but is charged extra to rent a car; and a 25-year-old who can rent a car at the typical rate, but remains eligible for his parents’ health insurance.

Which one is an adult? All of them? None of them? Some of them? Or does it depend on the individual?

These questions are newly salient in the criminal justice system.

October 28, 2016 in Aggravators and mitigators, Class activities, Theories of punishment | Permalink | Comments (2)

October 20, 2016

Some more "who sentences" stories from my main blog, now focused on non-capital sentencing

In this post earlier this month, I flagged a number of "who sentences" stories relating to the death penalty on my Sentencing Law & Policy blog.  Here is now a similar round up of some recent non-capital sentencing stories and commentaries that provide some more "who" perspectives:

October 20, 2016 in Class activities, Current Affairs, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 17, 2016

Lies, damn lies and federal prison and commutations statistics

As I mentioned in class, as we turn our attention more to the history and modern realities of non-capital sentencing and especially to the history and modern realities of incarceration, having a basic understanding of a lot of number becomes important.   The title of this post is designed to make sure, before you dive too much into these data, that you keep in mind perhaps the most famous quote about statistics.  Once you have that quote in mind, consider some of the data and their sources.

The latest detailed breakdown of the federal prison population comes from this terrific "Quick Facts" document released this month by the US Sentencing Commission titled "Federal Offenders in Prison – March 2016."  Here are just some of the data therein that caught my eye:

• A large majority of offenders in the federal prison population are male (93.3%).

• Hispanic offenders make up the largest group of the federal prison population(35.2%), followed by Black offenders (34.4%), White offenders (27.0%), and Other Races (3.5%).

• More than three-quarters (77.9%) of these offenders are United States citizens.

• The majority of offenders pleaded guilty (88.5%).

• Nearly one-quarter (23.9%) of all offenders serving a sentence for a federal conviction possessed a firearm or other weapon in connection with their offenses.

• Half of all offenders (50.2%) in the federal prison population were sentenced to more than ten years in prison, while 5.2% were sentenced to 30 years or longer, and 2.7% were sentenced to life in prison.

• Approximately 17,000 offenders (9.9% of all incarcerated offenders) have served more than 10 years in prison.

• More than half (56.8%) of offenders in the federal prison population were convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum penalty.

The data in the USSC report is already significantly dated because it analyzed a federal prison population of 195,676 "offenders in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons on March 27, 2016."   But, just a little more than six months later according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons latest inmate population report, it is now only in charge of 191,322 total federal inmates.  In other words, in just the last 6 months alone, there has been more than a 2% decline in the overall federal prison population!

Speaking of changes over time in the population levels in the Federal Bureau of Prison, check out this BOP year-by-year report of the past federal prison population in modern times, which includes these numbers:

Fiscal Year      BOP Population

1983                 33,216

1993                 88,565

2003                 172,499

2013                 219,218

In other words, in just the last 20 years up to 2013 (12 of which had a Democrat in charge in the Oval Office and his appointees running the US Department of justice), there was 250% increase in the overall federal prison population!

As you may now realize, the number of federal prisoners for fiscal year 2013 was the year with the highest ever federal prison population (it was also, of course, the first year of Prez Obama's second term in office and the fifth year of the US Department of Justice being run by former US Attorney General Eric Holder). 

Also, as of the end of Fiscal Year 2013, this webpage from the Office of the Pardon Attorney reports that Prez Obama had received well over 8,000 federal commutation petitions and had granted a grand total of 1 commutation.  (If you are running the numbers, this means that as of the end of 2013, Prez Obama had granted only about .01% of commutation petitions received from federal prisoners.)

Of course, Prez Obama has picked up the pace on commutation grants: as this White House website highlights, by having now granted a total of 774 commutations, Prez Obama "has granted commutations to more prisoners than the past 11 presidents combined."  But his actions here ought to be put in some other statistical context, as does this webpage from the Office of Pardon Attorney, which reports that Prez Obama has received 29,078 commutation petitions during his time an office.  So, by having now granted 774 commutations from among the 29,078 commutation petitions received, Prez Obama has now upped his granted rate to about 2.5% of all commutation petitions received from federal prisoners.

As always, a great way for students to earn extra credit for the class would be to mine these numbers for further insights and data points worthy of highlighting in the comments to the blog (or in class).  And any student who can find good data on the race/gender of the 774 persons to have received commutations from Prez Obama and compares them to the general federal prison population will be sure to receive extra, extra, extra credit.

October 17, 2016 in Class activities, Clemency, Data on sentencing, Race and gender issues, Scope of imprisonment, Sentencing data, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 12, 2016

How some Framers thought about "gradation of punishments" (and proposed sentencing guidelines) in a world before "modern" prisons

One of my all-time favorite documents in the history of US sentencing law and policy is this document authored by Thomas Jefferson in 1778 under the title "A Bill for Proportioning Crimes and Punishments in Cases Heretofore Capital."  I recommend a read of the entire document (as well as this historical discussion of its backstory and its rejection by one vote).  Here I have reprinted the document's preamble and provisions proposing a range of different forms of punishment, all of which seem especially interesting as we move from a discussion of the modern death penalty to other forms of modern punishment [I HAVE THROWN IN A FEW EDITORIAL COMMENTS IN ALL CAPS AND BOLD FOR ENHANCED READING]:

[STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES AND PROPORTIONALITY:] Whereas it frequently happens that wicked and dissolute men resigning themselves to the dominion of inordinate passions, commit violations on the lives, liberties and property of others, and, the secure enjoyment of these having principally induced men to enter into society, government would be defective in it's principal purpose were it not to restrain such criminal acts, by inflicting due punishments on those who perpetrate them; but it appears at the same time equally deducible from the purposes of society that a member thereof, committing an inferior injury, does not wholy forfiet the protection of his fellow citizens, but, after suffering a punishment in proportion to his offence is entitled to their protection from all greater pain, so that it becomes a duty in the legislature to arrange in a proper scale the crimes which it may be necessary for them to repress, and to adjust thereto a corresponding gradation of punishments.

[STATEMENT ABOUT THEORY OF PUNISHMENT:] And whereas the reformation of offenders, tho' an object worthy the attention of the laws, is not effected at all by capital punishments, which exterminate instead of reforming, and should be the last melancholy resource against those whose existence is become inconsistent with the safety of their fellow citizens, which also weaken the state by cutting off so many who, if reformed, might be restored sound members to society, who, even under a course of correction, might be rendered useful in various labors for the public, and would be living and long continued spectacles to deter others from committing the like offences.

And forasmuch the experience of all ages and countries hath shewn that cruel and sanguinary laws defeat their own purpose by engaging the benevolence of mankind to withold prosecutions, to smother testimony, or to listen to it with bias, when, if the punishment were only proportioned to the injury, men would feel it their inclination as well as their duty to see the laws observed.

For rendering crimes and punishments therefore more proportionate to each other: Be it enacted by the General assembly that no crime shall be henceforth punished by deprivation of life or limb except those hereinafter ordained to be so punished....

[PUNISHMENT FOR MOST SERIOUS CRIMES:]  If any person commit Petty treason, or a husband murder his wife, a parent his child, or a child his parent, he shall suffer death by hanging, and his body be delivered to Anatomists to be dissected.

Whosoever shall commit murder in any other way shall suffer death by hanging.

And in all cases of Petty treason and murder one half of the lands and goods of the offender shall be forfieted to the next of kin to the person killed, and the other half descend and go to his own representatives. Save only where one shall slay the Challenger in at duel, in which case no part of his lands or goods shall be forfieted to the kindred of the party slain, but instead thereof a moiety shall go to the Commonwealth....

[PUNISHMENT FOR LESSER HOMICIDES:] Whosoever shall be guilty of Manslaughter, shall for the first offence, be condemned to hard labor for seven years, in the public works, shall forfiet one half of his lands and goods to the next of kin to the person slain; the other half to be sequestered during such term, in the hands and to the use of the Commonwealth, allowing a reasonable part of the profits for the support of his family. The second offence shall be deemed Murder....

[PUNISHMENT FOR SEX CRIMES:] Whosoever shall be guilty of Rape, Polygamy, or Sodomy with man or woman shall be punished, if a man, by castration, if a woman, by cutting thro' the cartilage of her nose a hole of one half inch diameter at the least....

[PUNISHMENT FOR SERIOUS ASSAULTS:] Whosoever on purpose and of malice forethought shall maim another, or shall disfigure him, by cutting out or disabling the tongue, slitting or cutting off a nose, lip or ear, branding, or otherwise, shall be maimed or disfigured in like sort: or if that cannot be for want of the same part, then as nearly as may be in some other part of at least equal value and estimation in the opinion of a jury and moreover shall forfiet one half of his lands and goods to the sufferer.

[PUNISHMENT FOR SERIOUS ECONOMIC CRIMES:] Whosoever shall counterfiet any coin current by law within this Commonwealth, or any paper bills issued in the nature of money, or of certificates of loan on the credit of this Commonwealth, or of all or any of the United States of America, or any Inspectors notes for tobacco, or shall pass any such counterfieted coin, paper bills, or notes, knowing them to be counterfiet; or, for the sake of lucre, shall diminish, case, or wash any such coin, shall be condemned to hard labor six years in the public works, and shall forfiet all his lands and goods to the Commonwealth.

Whosoever committeth Arson shall be condemned to hard labor five years in the public works, and shall make good the loss of the sufferers threefold.

If any person shall within this Commonwealth, or being a citizen thereof shall without the same, wilfully destroy, or run away with any sea-vessel or goods laden on board thereof, or plunder or pilfer any wreck, he shall be condemned to hard labor five years in the public works, and shall make good the loss of the sufferers three-fold.

Whosoever committeth Robbery shall be condemned to hard labor four years in the public works, and shall make double reparation to the persons injured.

Whatsoever act, if committed on any Mansion house, would be deemed Burglary, shall be Burglary if committed on any other house; and he who is guilty of Burglary, shall be condemned to hard labor four years in the public works, and shall make double reparation to the persons injured....

[PUNISHMENT FOR LESSER ECONOMIC CRIMES:] Grand Larceny shall be where the goods stolen are of the value of five dollars, and whosoever shall be guilty thereof shall be forthwith put in the pillory for one half hour, shall be condemned to hard labor two years in the public works, and shall make reparation to the person injured.

Petty Larceny shall be where the goods stolen are of less value than five dollars; whosoever shall be guilty thereof shall be forthwith put in the pillory for a quarter of an hour, shall be condemned to hard labor one year in the public works, and shall make reparation to the person injured....

[PUNISHMENT FOR PUBLIC DISORDER CRIMES:] All attempts to delude the people, or to abuse their understanding by exercise of the pretended arts of witchcraft, conjuration, inchantment, or sorcery or by pretended prophecies, shall be punished by ducking and whipping at the discretion of a jury, not exceeding 15. stripes....

[SPECIAL DEFENDANTS:] Slaves guilty of any offence punishable in others by labor in the public works, shall be transported to such parts in the West Indies, S. America or Africa, as the Governor shall direct, there to be continued in slavery.

October 12, 2016 in Alternatives to imprisonment, Class activities, Death penalty history, Theories of punishment, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 05, 2016

Game planning next week's final(?) capital punishment discussions (and requests for expressions of any continued DP interest)

As I surmise you could tell from the last few classes, I am not at all troubled that our discussions of how Teddy K.'s capital case might play out in states like Florida and Texas has gone on longer than I had initially planned.  I am hopeful you were able to get a real feel from this week's two classes concerning the various important structural and practical realities of modern death penalty decision-making that have resulted from the Supreme Court's modern Eighth Amendment "guided discretion" jurisprudence. 

With the Teddy K. hypo and some of its lessons now covered, I want to update/clarify our plans and my expectations for next week's classes and beyond:

Monday, Oct 10:  Guest presentation/discussion with Kevin Stanek, Assistant Chief Counsel for Ohio Governor John Kasich (and OSU Moritz College of Law Class of 2013). There is no need to prepare anything formal this class, but this Dispatch article and this part of a Wikipedia entry provides a quick overview of the Ohio execution administration issues that ACC Stanek will likely be discussing.  (And for a lighter (and not-so-tasteful) look at these issues, check out this satire video from The Onion, "Ohio Replaces Lethal Injection With Humane New Head-Ripping-Off Machine.")

Tuesday, Oct 11: We will finally get to discussing McClesky v. Kemp (paying extra special attention to the final few paragraphs of the majority opinion and then debating a possible Ohio Racial and Gender Justice Act)

Wednesday, Oct 12:  Wrap up DP discussions and start transition to LWOP/non-capital sentencing challenges by identifying enduring lessons ....

UNLESS YOU REPORT IN THE COMMENTS OR ELSEWHERE ABOUT ADDITIONAL CAPITAL PUNISHMENT ISSUES YOU WOULD LIKE TO HAVE US COVER IN CLASS.  If nobody raises any addition death-penalty issues in the comments or in other ways with me, I will assume that everyone has already had more than their fill of death penalty discussions and thus will feel all that much more confident moving on to discussions of non-capital sentencing realities ASAP.

For those students hoping and eager for us to move on beyond our death penalty discussions, please feel free to get started on our first set of prison readings, in the form of:

UPDATE: ACC Stanek suggested that everyone read this DC Circuit case, Cook v. FDA, to get a flavor of some of the challenges states face when trying to acquire the drugs needed to conduct a lethal injection.

October 5, 2016 in Class activities, Course requirements, Execution methods, Ohio news and commentary, Race and gender issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 27, 2016

Some links to SNL skits about Teddy K.

As promised, these are fun to check out:

September 27, 2016 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 14, 2016

The full McGautha...

can be found here.  Reading just the majority opinion authored by Justice Harlan (which is only 1/4 of the whole thing) is encouraged, but not required, for having extra fun throughout next week's discussion.  I also think everyone should at least get started reading Furman and Gregg and subsequent SCOTUS cases in chapter 3 of our text ASAP.

September 14, 2016 in Class activities, Death penalty history, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 12, 2016

Lots of interesting new buzz concerning the (sort of dormant) Ohio death penalty

Conveniently, my week away proved to be a period in which some interesting local death penalty news and commentary emerged, as evidence by these two recent posts from my main blog:

These topics and lots of others will be a part of our coming extensive discussion of death penalty theory, policy and practice over the next few weeks.

September 12, 2016 in Class activities, Death penalty history, Execution methods, Ohio news and commentary, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 07, 2016

A glimpse into the hows (and whos) of federal death sentencing in a high-profile case

This new BuzzFeed News article, headlined "Prosecutors Want To Limit Dylann Roof’s Use Of A “Mercy” Defense," provides an effective summary of this interesting motion filed by prosecutors in a high profile federal capital case.  Especially because we will be jumping into the history, law and practice of capital punishment next week, I recommend everyone consider checking out the motion.

September 7, 2016 in Class activities, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 29, 2016

Basic information on the methods and madness of mini-paper assignment(s)

As the Course Description noted, part of your formal work in this class is to author (at least) two “mini-papers” which will comprise up to 20% of your final grade.  (You can look through this blog's archives to see examples of the kinds of in-semester writings I have urged students to produce in previous years, though please know each year I tweak the topics and format of this class requirement.)

Absent further instructions/modifications, here is my planned approach to the mini-paper assignment this time around:  Each submitted mini-papers must be no more than four pages long (and can be MUCH shorter), and should respond to my in-class prompts that I plan to provide every few weeks.  The first prompt, for example, was (formally?) delivered today in class when I encouraged all to write up your personal "sentencing topic of interest" with a particular focus/reflection on the meta-topics we have discussed our first few weeks in class (namely theories of punishment and who sentences).

I expect to provide a new prompt for a new mini-paper every few weeks, usually right after these (Monday AM) tentative submission due dates for these mini-papers:

 • September 19 (for "topic of interest" mini-paper)

 • October 10 (for what will likely be a death penalty prompt)

 • November 7 (for what will likely be a federal sentencing prompt)

 • December 5 (for what will likely be a "SCOTUS-as-who" sentencing prompt)

As also hinted in class, one goal for this assignment is to engender additional inter-student substantive discourse; that is why, subject to any stated objections/concerns for certain submissions, I expect to distribute everyone's submitted mini-papers back to the class for all to read and consider.

Because the comments to this blog are now working, I encourage students to use the comments to ask any basic follow-up questions or to express any concerns about these assignments.  And, to be perfectly clear, though I will be providing (at least) four formal prompts for mini-paper writing, students are requires only to complete two mini-papers throughout the semester.  (But because you get this option, I will be expecting the papers to be really good, and you can earn extra credit by submitting more than the mandatory minimum number of papers.)

August 29, 2016 in Class activities, Mini-papers | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 24, 2016

Some background reading on (various forms of) castration as a punishment for sex offenders

Since I keep managing to end class with lingering questions about castration as a punishment for sex offenses, I figured I would use this blog space to highlight some existing literature on this topic.  Perhaps my main goal here is to be sure I do not leave the impression that I am the only one who thinks (too much?) about the potential pros and cons of castration as a punishment for sex offenders:

I do not expect anyone to read all these materials (or even any of them if this topic creeps you out), but perhaps one or more of you might find this topic interesting for a future mini-paper or final paper. And, speaking of topics of interest for mini/final papers, I promise on Monday to start the class by going around the room and having folks describe a sentencing/punishment topic of personal interest.  Once we have that discussion, we will then jump hard into the Williams case.

August 24, 2016 in Alternatives to imprisonment, Class activities, Theories of punishment | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 18, 2016

First week assignments, electronic copies of course documents, and links for completing questionnaire

I have posted on the Moritz official website our first assignments, but I figured it would be useful to repost the details here, while also providing electronic copies of the basic course documents.  So....

In preparation for our first week of classes starting Monday, August 22, 2016 you should:

1.  Get a copy of the THIRD edition of the casebook for the course.

2.  Download the questionnaire and fill it out before our first class.  (In addition to being posted here, the questionnaire and course description will be available in hard-copy in front of my office, Room 313.)

3.  Find/research on your own a real sentencing issue, case or story that is of significant interest to you, and come to our first week of classes prepared to explain this issue, case or story and why it is of significant interest to you. 

Download 2016 Course description

Download 2016 Fall pre Class Questionnaire

 

You will discover that a few of the questions in the questionnaire call for a bit of on-line research, and here are some links to help in this arena:

 

August 18, 2016 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 10, 2016

Welcome yet again to another reboot of this blog for another semester of Sentencing Law at the Moritz College of Law

This is now the FIFTH re-launch of this blogging adventure!!

This blog started nearly 10 years ago (with the uninspired title of Death Penalty Course @ Moritz College of Law) to facilitate student engagement in the Spring 2007 course on the death penalty that I taught at OSU's Moritz College of Law.  This first post in this space explained, way back then, that "I hope[d] that both the contents and very construct of this blog will inspire a new type of engagement with the death penalty and with on-line media for students."  Sure enough, the blog proved successful during that semester (which was when this guy was still US Prez and when this TV show was still the most popular).

I closed this blog down not long after that first death penalty course ended, but thereafter discovered the students' hard work as reflected in the archives still was generating some web traffic and that many posts remained timely (though a whole bunch of old web links are now very dead).  So, as I geared up for teaching Criminal Punishment & Sentencing in Spring 2009 at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and again when visiting in Spring 2010 at Fordham School of Law and again back at the Moritz College of Law in Fall 2011 and Spring 2014, I decided to reboot this blog to allow the new course to build in this space on some materials covered before.  In all of these classes, I have been pleased with how this blog helped promote student engagement with on-line media and materials. (For the record, OSU students always engaged with the blog much more and better than Fordham students.)

Now, circa August 2016, I am gearing up to teach Sentencing Law again at the Moritz College of Law.  And because a lot of new exciting sentencing developments seem likely in the weeks and months ahead, I am hopeful that this space will stay active as I flag current events for class discussion.  In addition, I use this blog (rather than TWEN) as convenient place to post information about class activities and plans and assignments, and so you can/should be on the look out for class materials posting in this space soon.

 

WELCOME!

 

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August 10, 2016 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 05, 2015

Final sets of mini-papers for review and reactions

Well timed for the middle of the first week of final is the last set of student mini-papers for student review:

Download Sentencing Reform

Download Sex Crimes_Offenders

Download War on Drugs

Remember that if you are looking for a great way to earn some final extra credit, say smart things about one or more of these mini-papers in the comments.

 

May 5, 2015 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 24, 2015

A couple more sets of mini-papers for review and reactions

As promised, I will be posting throughout this week and next the collections of mini-papers produced by students throughout the semester.  Here are two more of the collections to go along with the death penalty collection posted previously:

Download The Prison Experience

Download Child Pornography Sentencing

 

April 24, 2015 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 21, 2015

The great opportunity (and great joy) of semester review via mini-papers

Thanks to the extraordinary help of my wonderful office assistant Allyson, I now have now finally assembled more than 60 of the mini-papers submitted over the last two months into nine subject-specific collections (in pdf form) for posting here and collective review.  Huzzah!

Though all the mini-papers are a whole lot to read in one sitting (running 120+ pages), I am hopeful the subject-specific organization will enable students to review topics of particular interest in smaller chunks.  And, as I continue to re-read all the mini-papers, I find that they serve as an interesting and effective review of much of what we formally covered in class through the semester. 

I will be posting these collections in a number of separate posts (to perhaps facilitate distinct comments concerning different collections), and I will start with the big topic of the death penalty that kept us especially busy the first half of the semester:

Download Death Penalty (pdf collection runs 31 pages)

April 21, 2015 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (1)

April 15, 2015

If you are curious about federal child porn sentencing...

here is a link to the 400+ page report that the US Sentencing Commission published on the topic in December 2012.  The report's executive summary is only about a couple dozen pages, can be accessed at this link, and here are some interesting excerpts:

[S]entencing data indicate that a growing number of courts believe that the current sentencing scheme in non-production offenses is overly severe for some offenders.  As the Supreme Court has observed, the Commission’s obligation to collect and examine sentencing data directly relates to its statutory duty to consider whether the guidelines are in need of revision in light of feedback from judges as reflected in their sentencing decisions.

[A]s a result of recent changes in the computer and Internet technologies that typical non-production offenders use, the existing sentencing scheme in non-production cases no longer adequately distinguishes among offenders based on their degrees of culpability.  Non-production child pornography offenses have become almost exclusively Internet-enabled crimes; the typical offender today uses modern Internet-based technologies such as peer-to-peer (“P2P”) file-sharing programs that were just emerging only a decade ago and that now facilitate large collections of child pornography.  The typical offender’s collection not only has grown in volume but also contains a wide variety of graphic sexual images (including images of very young victims), which are now readily available on the Internet.  As a result, four of the of six sentencing enhancements in §2G2.2 — those relating to computer usage and the type and volume of images possessed by offenders, which together account for 13 offense levels — now apply to most offenders and, thus, fail to differentiate among offenders in terms of their culpability.  These enhancements originally were promulgated in an earlier technological era, when such factors better served to distinguish among offenders.15 Indeed, most of the enhancements in §2G2.2, in their current or antecedent versions, were promulgated when the typical offender obtained child pornography in printed form in the mail....

[M]ost stakeholders in the federal criminal justice system consider the nonproduction child pornography sentencing scheme to be seriously outmoded.  Those stakeholders, including sentencing courts, increasingly feel that they “are left without a meaningful baseline from which they can apply sentencing principles” in non-production cases....

The Commission concludes that the non-production child pornography sentencing scheme should be revised to account for recent technological changes in offense conduct and emerging social science research about offenders’ behaviors and histories, and also to better promote the purposes of punishment by accounting for the variations in offenders’ culpability and sexual dangerousness.

In addition, you might find intriguing and informative the lengthy discussion of child porn sentencing in the split Third Circuit panel decision in United States v. David Grober (where the majority, inter alia, faults the district court for allowing me to testify at the sentencing hearing).

April 15, 2015 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Offense Conduct, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 14, 2015

Basic finals information (and a place for any questions or concerns)

As I mentioned in class, the final paper for this class (and the final take-home exam which is available as an alternative to completing a final paper) is due at close of business on the last day of the exam period.  According to the Registrar's website, the final exam day is May 14, 2015.  (Note that, because this is truly the last day, I cannot readily give any kind of extension, especially to anyone supposed to graduate the next day.)

If you are taking the take-home final, I am certain it will be available no later than April 30 (and perhaps sooner), and you have the entire exam period to complete it.  In case you are wondering about the final's format, here are the general instructions I typically have for take-home finals in this class:

Typical Berman Take-Home General Instructions

1. To complete this exam you must answer at least 3 of the 4 questions.

2. As an open-book exam, you may refer to any (non-human) sources, but your answers must be prepared independently, without discussion or assistance from others.

3. Each question has a strict [1500 or 2000 or question-specific] word limit.  These are limits, not goals. Great answers are possible in fewer words.  Aided by your computer’s word count feature, please note the total number of words at the end of each of your answers.

4. You are not required to use sources other than class materials.  You are not precluded from conducting outside research, though extra time may be best invested in reviewing course materials and revising your answers to ensure they are clear and concise.

I welcome any question or concerns about any of this expressed in class or in the (now working) comment section here.  Remember my mantra: low-stress, high-learning.

April 14, 2015 in Class activities, Course requirements | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 12, 2015

Final weeks to focus on purposes, offense, offender, sentencing and post-sentencing for sex offenders

A number of stories I have recently covered on my blog leads me to conclude we would usefully bring our semester to an informative and challenging close by giving special attention to the uniquely dynamic purposes, offense/offender, sentencing/post-sentencing issues raised by an array of sex offenses and offenders.  Though I will assign some formal readings from our casebook on these topics on Tuesday, I will kick off this final segment of the course by urging everyone to cruise through the Sex Offender Sentencing archive on my main blog looking for stories they find especially interesting and thus worthy of in-class discussion.

To highlight how dynamic and challenging sex offender sentencing issues can be, consider these posts concerning notable sex offender sentencing rulings and stories making headlines just in the past few weeks and months:

Distinct goals/purposes issues:

 

 Distinct offense considerations:

 

Distinct offender considerations:

 

Distinct post-sentencing consequences and concerns:

I would be especially grateful if student come to class on Tuesday having reviewed many of these linked stories and with an opinion about which aspect(s) of sex offender sentencing they would like us to focus particularly upon in the final weeks of class.

April 12, 2015 in Class activities, Offense Conduct | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 06, 2015

Two projects for a week with possibly just one class

Much to my chagrin, I fear this week our class will only be able to meet on Wednesday (4/8), and I fear that much of that class will involve going over current events and making sure the last few weeks of class are productive.  To that end, I have two potential projects for students to work on/think about which (1) could be the basis for additional mini-papers OR (2) the basis for a final paper OR (3) the answer to one of the question(s) likely to show up on the take home final.  Here are the basics, with more explanation to come during Wednesday's class:

Possible paper/project #1.  After the drug war: keys terms for the treaty (or reparations, or a Marshall Plan, or a truth and reconciliation commission or....)? 

As we have discussed in class, the so-called "war on drugs" has played a huge role in criminal justice developments over the last 40 years, and it has play an important role in debates over modern sentencing reform and mass incarceration. Now that there is a growing consensus that the harshest sentencing aspects of the drug war need to be reformed (and a remarkable move toward reform of marijuana and other criminal laws), a growing question is what the essential elements and terms of the post-drug-war sentencing and corrections system. Should past marijuana (and other drug) convictions be expunged? Should some kind of formal reparations be a critical part of modern reforms? And who --- legislatures, sentencing commissions, judges, executive officials --- should be principally charged with designing the terms of the "post-drug-war treaty"?

Possible paper/project #2.  Drafting new formal federal guidelines for the consideration of (one, a few, many?) offender characteristics.

In this (relatively short) law review article, a former Chair of the US Sentencing Commission criticized the federal sentencing guidelines for having too often and for too long declared offender characteristics to be "prohibited or discouraged factors" because of a fear that these factors could too readily lead "courts to issue different sentences to defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct." He suggested factors like "past drug dependence" and "positive response under pretrial supervision" ought to be the basis for new formal "guidelines that encourage consideration of those characteristics where appropriate."  Do you agree that new guidelines would be fitting for these (or other) offender characteristics, and what might these guidelines look like?

April 6, 2015 in Class activities, Who decides, Working on white papers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 28, 2015

Working text of Amended RID bill for reducing drunk driving crimes and harms

As you should recall, we ended class on Thursday with a working draft proposal for new drunk-driving legislation.  Here is what has made it through our drafting committee so far:

First Offense DUI: imprisonment from minimum term of zero to five years max

Second Offense DUI: imprisonment from minimum term of six month to seven years max

Third (or Greater) Offense DUI: imprisonment from minimum term of two years to ten years max

In addition, a sentencing judge should (must?) give the minimum term for any DUI offense if and only when the defendant's BAC was .10% or lower and no tangible harm result from the offense.  A sentencing judge should (must?) impose a sentence above the minimum if the defendant's BAC was above .10% or tangible harm resulted from the offense.

We could (and perhaps should) continue to discuss and debate other offense-related provisions to incorporate into this sentenceing --- e.g., we might provide more specific guidance/mandates concerning what other BAC levels or types of harms should/must result in a certain amount of jail time.  But, in order to reduce the risk of potential unwarranted disparity, I think it may be even more important that we consider whether and how to provide some offender-related instructions to judges for the exercise of their sentencing discretion in this setting.  And to get the discussion started, here are some proposals for consideration:

Proposal 1.  A judge generally should (must?) sentence an offender at or near the applicable minimum term if and when the defendant has no criminal history, has pleaded guilty and accepted responsibility and shown remorse, and has demonstrated a willingness to seek treatment for any substance abuse or personal problems that may have contributed to the offense.

Proposal 2.  A judge generally should (must?) sentence an offender at or near the applicable maximum term if and when the defendant has a significant criminal history, has refused to accept responsibility and shown remorse, and has failed to demonstrate a willingness to seek treatment for any substance abuse or personal problems that may have contributed to the offense.

(Contrary) Proposal 3.  A judge generally should (must?) not in exercising his sentencing discretion consider in any way a defendant's criminal history, whether he has shown any remorse, or whether any substance abuse or personal problems may have contributed to the offense. 

As these proposals are written, it is possible (but not essential) to favor both Proposal 1 and Proposal 2.  But Proposal 3 is intended to be directly contrary to the Proposal 1 and my goal here is to explore whether and how you favor (or oppose) the consideration of some common offender-related sentencing factors.

I would encourage students to use the comments to discuss any part of this on-going debate over our new sentencing bill, and folks should feel especially free to propose any additional amendments and modifications to the bill.  We will build on what we have done to date in our class discussion on Tuesday and Wednesday.

March 28, 2015 in Aggravators and mitigators, Class activities, Offense Conduct, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 25, 2015

Intriguing federal fraud sentencing raising distinct offense and offender issues

As mentioned in class, this week we will continue to unpack the challenging question of exactly what are the essential aspects of the "offense" to be assessed and punished at sentencing, and next week we will focus on whether there are any essential aspects of the "offender" that must (or must not) be assessed and punished at sentencing.  With both topics in mind, a story of an upcoming federal fraud sentence blogged at SL&P struck me as especially interesting: You be the judge: what federal sentence for modern sheriff playing Robin Hood?.

 

Here are the basics of the offense based on press accounts:

Charge(s) of conviction: federal mail fraud, carrying a statutory range of 0 to 20 years in prison

Real conduct: "created hundreds of fake police reports [over and 18 month period] for a friend who ran a credit repair business so people could claim their identities were stolen and get out of credit."   Main victim seems to be the credit company Equifax, and there is not tangible evidence the offender received any money for his fraudulent behavior (but his friend in the credit repair business made thousands of dollars from the scheme and may have paid the offender cash for his assistance).

 

Here are the basics of the offender based on press accounts:

Characteristics at time of 2012-13 crime: Male, heavy-set, 37 years-old, sheriff of southern county.

Background: "no criminal record, ... has suffered from depression and anxiety the past four years [and] has migraines, high blood pressure and insomnia."   The now-former sheriff "was raised in a broken home, saw his mother abused by a boyfriend and left at age 17 to relieve her of financial burden [while they] resided in a poverty-stricken area."  The offender joined the county "in 1997, two years after graduating high school and rose to chief deputy, becoming sheriff in April 2010."

 

Today and for the next few classes, we will talk about offense and offender sentencing issues using this real case (rather than the fake Rob Anon case) as a focal point.  Consider and be prepared to discuss whether and how you think sentencing law could and should require (or preclude) consideration some of the facts listed above at sentencing.  Also, consider whether there are any additional facts about the offense or the offender you would like to know before sentencing.

March 25, 2015 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Offense Conduct | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 24, 2015

National and Ohio drunk driving harms data for sentencing exercise

There are lots of sites worth checking out concerning the scourge of drunk driving, and this webpage from The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility has lots of helpful links to lots of helpful data.  For example,this page has a really nice simple chart highlight that drunk driving death nationally in recent years have been around 10,000 per year, which is about 1/3 less than the yearly average a decade ago.  This decline in deaths arguably proves that tougher criminal laws work as this decline correlates with more states adopting .08% BAC as the legal limit AND with more states requiring ignition locks as punishment for DUI offenses.

But "only" 10,000 DUI deaths each year still means that, on average, more than 25 persons are killed by a drunk driver every single day in the USThis website with official Ohio highway stats reveals that Ohio has averaged more than 400 drunk driving deaths per year (meaning more than one per day).  As I mentioned in class, these number are only slightly lower than the total number of deaths from intentional homicide: roughly, the US has averaged about 14,000 murders and Ohio has averaged around 500 murders per year in recent years.  

Ohio's current penalties for drunk driving (called OVI) are effectively outlined on this webpage, and  Senator Madd, the new head of the Judiciary Committee, made reducing drunk driving deaths and injuries a centerpiece of his re-election campaign.  He also knows that, as explained on this MADD webpage, roughly "one-third of the drunk driving problem – arrests, crashes, deaths, and injuries – comes from repeat offenders.  At any given point we potentially share the roads with 2 million people with three or more drunk driving offenses.  Taking away their licenses isn’t enough; 50-75% of them drive anyway." 

Senator Madd is eager to work with any and everyone on legislation to make Ohio's roads and all its citizens safer.  He sees some potential merit in both the RID and TOUGH bills that have been proposed, but he is eager to get some additional input from fellow legislators about the best ways to move forward on these fronts.

March 24, 2015 in Class activities, Data on sentencing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 22, 2015

Reminders and updates ... about class and sentencing cases we have been following

I hope everyone enjoyed Spring Break as much as I did and also that everyone is looking forward to an exciting final month of our sentencing class.  This post provides a couple of reminders about on-going activities as well as some updates that might be of interest as we close out March sentencing madness:

1.  Everyone has a chance to submit an extra mini-paper this week (requirements outlined here), ideally by 12noon on Monday, March 23.  The required prompt: "What topic(s) are you eager for us to discuss in class more before the end of the semester?"  Recall that, though all students are required to submit at least three mini-papers before the end of the semester, extra credit will be rewarded to those who submit more than the minimum.

2.  This week in class, we will focus on what should be "the offense"  for sentencing purposes.  Specifically, should only the formal specifics of the offense of conviction be considered at sentencing (the "charge offense") or should sentencing involve at least some real specifics of how the offense was actually committed (the "real offense").   As you consider this seemingly basic question, review your prior efforts sentencing Rob Anon prior to modern reforms and under the federal sentencing guidelines.   Did the charge offense or the real offense matter more to you when sentencing in the discretionary pre-guideline world?  How about in the guideline world?  And what does the US Constitution have to say about this according to the Supreme Court in the Watts case?  

3.   You may recall we talked earlier in the semester about the upcoming sentencing of former Connecticut Gov John Rowland.  Here is how that turned out:  Former Governor John Rowland Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison.  In addition, we have been following death penalty debate in Pennsylvania, and here is an interesting "who" development on that front: "Victim's wife: Keep me out of death penalty fight"

March 22, 2015 in Class activities, Course requirements, Recent news and developments, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 09, 2015

Links to all the key guidelines for modern FSG sentencing of Rob Anon

With apologies for the delay, I will now finally through this post provide some hints and help for sentencing Rob Anon under the modern federal sentencing guidelines.  Here are links to the key provisions of the "official" on-line version of the now-applicable US Sentencing Guidelines as provided on the US Sentencing Commission's website:

I highly encourage class members to start working through these "basic" federal guideline sentencing materials on their own (and then use the comments to express frustration) before looking for any more sentencing help.  That said, if (when?) you want/need some more help, here is a link to a worksheet created by the US Sentencing Commission intended to aid in the guideline sentencing process:

As you work through this assignment, please feel free use the comments to express what it feels like to sentence in the federal system now that a whole lot of law has been brought into the process.   

Though I continue to hope I am doing a good job with my low-stress, high-learning class mantra, it is very important in my view for everyone to get through the Rob Anon guideline sentencing experience ASAP; having done so will be essential to getting the most out of our classes the rest of this month. If you have already done this exercise, do it again and/or review your work.  If you have not done it yet, please do. 

March 9, 2015 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 08, 2015

Pre-Monday reminder of Monday deadlines and events

Just a quick note to remind everyone that...

1.  If you are submitting a mini-paper this week (requirements outlined here), it is due by 12noon on Monday, March 9.   The suggested prompt was "could/should the law consider the subjective experience of imprisonment in some way," though you are always welcome of write on any topic of interest and relevance to recent class readings/discussion/activity.

2.  Speaking of recent class readings/discussion/activity, you should be spending some time trying to figure out how to sentence Rob Anon pursuant the the federal sentencing guidelines.  Here is a first "hint" with more to come in a subsequent post: Entire 2014 Federal Sentencing Guidelines linked via USSC

3.  At noon in the Public Service Law Center is a lunch with Allen Bohnert, Moritz Class of 2006 (profiled here).  The lunch is a brown-bag affair, but I will treat for lunch for a few students who let me know ASAP that the would be interested to come with me and Allen to eat at Eddie George's after the talk. 

March 8, 2015 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 04, 2015

Seeking reflections/reactions to today's pre-reform federal sentencing exercise

We will talk on Thursday about the experience of sentencing Rob Anon under the pre-reform discretionary federal sentencing system, but I wanted to start the process of reflection on the pre-reform system with this post and a place for comments. 

Did your experience strengthen your understanding for Judge Frankel's concerns and call for reform? 

What aspects of the sentencing experience surprised or concerned you the most?

March 4, 2015 in Class activities, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 25, 2015

Various posts on the subjective experiences of punishment from SL&P (and a timely article about prison rape)

Following up on today's class discussion (and tomorrow's video) concerning imprisonment and the subjective experiences offenders may face, here are various posts of note from the archives of Sentencing Law & Policy:

These posts are a mix of links to serious academic articles and interesting real-world cases on some topics we covered in class.

Finally, I just noticed that The Atlantic has this lengthy new article about another part of the subjective experience of imprisonment for many.  The piece is headlined "Rape in the American Prison: In 2003, Congress passed legislation to eliminate sexual assaults against inmates.  One young man’s story shows how elusive that goal remains."

February 25, 2015 in Class activities, Theories of punishment | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 11, 2015

Two fascinating new Ohio "who" sex offense sentencing stories

As mentioned in class, this week and next our class discussions will migrate from the basics of modern capital sentencing to the basics of modern non-capital sentencing.  And, as the Coker and Kennedy cases highlight, all modern capital cases now involve only the crime of murder even though any number of sex offenses often lead legislatures to make special (and severe) sentencing laws and rules.  On the topic of sex offenses, and with unique aspects of the "who" story in the mix, I recommend everyone check out these two new stories from my main blog concerns sentencing developments in our own state of Ohio:

Ohio Supreme Court finds multiple constitution flaws in mandatory sex offender sentencing process

District Judge, to chagrin of feds, relies on jury poll to give minimum sentence to child porn downloader

February 11, 2015 in Class activities, Current Affairs, Ohio news and commentary, Recent news and developments, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 31, 2015

Ohio's current capital laws and the dynamic realities of Ohio and US death penalty history

As mentioned in class, one class activity for the coming week(s) will be to work through how modern post-Furman capital punishment laws might get applied to the (in)famous Unibomber, Ted Kaczynski.  (Ted is currently an LWOP resident at superman ADX Florence in Colorado and in the past was comically portrayed by Will Farrell).  I will not aggressively quiz anyone about doctrinal specifics, but the rest of our death penalty discussions will be enriched if you take time to analyze how Ted's case might be litigated in prominent death penalty states like Florida and Texas and Ohio. 

We could easily spend the rest of the semester discussing the history and modern specifics of the death penalty in specific jurisdictions like Florida and Texas and Ohio and US.  I will reference this history and modern practices in class over the next few weeks, and here are some links concerning the two jurisdictions in which we operate to provide a (low-stress, high-learning) chance to discover a lot more about these matters:

Links with background on Ohio's history and practices in the administration of the death penalty 

Links with background on US history and practices in the administration of the death penalty 

Based on my hope that your "who radar" is now fully operational, I would be eager to hear your views (in the comments or in class) as to which "whos" have had the most impact on the operation of Ohio's death penalty system throughout the state's history (based, perhaps, on the Ohio DRC's account of this history).

January 31, 2015 in Aggravators and mitigators, Class activities, Death penalty history, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 26, 2015

Quick reminder of class activities for last week of January

Just a quick note to remind everyone that...

1.  If you are submitting your first mini-paper this week (requirements outlined here), it is due by 12noon today (Monday, Jan 26).

2.  You should prepare for this week's classes by (re)reading Williams v. New York and by reading McGautha v. California.  (It is sufficient to read the shortened excerpts of these cases in the casebook, but I have here provided links to the full opinion for anyone interested in reading more.  Williams in not much longer in full text, but McGautha is a lot longer.)

3.  Our coming discussion of modern capital punishment administration in the United States is going to focus a lot on the "who sentences" question.  To that end, you should check out and reflect on the "who" aspects of these stories about high-profile on-going capital cases:

January 26, 2015 in Class activities, Course requirements | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 21, 2015

SCOTUS cert petition in Young v. United States asserting 15-year ACCA prison term violates the Eighth Amendment

As mention in class, I am working on an amicus brief in support of a petition for certiorari in Young v. United States. I just received a copy of the petition, which was filed today, and the petition's appendix includes a copy of the Sixth Circuit opinion which rejected the defendant's assertion that a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for being a felon in possession of shotgun shells violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments. The full petition and appendix can be downloaded below, and here is how the petition styles the Question Presented:  

Whether the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s “evolving standards of decency” standard bars the application of a sentencing enhancement, the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. section 924(e), to a conviction for being a felon in possession of ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 922(g)(1), when the defendant’s possession of the seven shotgun shells at issue was passive, innocent, and initially unwitting, when the defendant’s most recent prior felony conviction was twenty years old, and when the resulting mandatory minimum sentence is 18 times greater than the minimum sentence the defendant would have otherwise received and more than 11 times greater than the maximum sentence the defendant would have otherwise received.

Download Young v US -- Petition for Writ of Certiorari with Appendix

January 21, 2015 in Class activities, Interesting new cases, SCOTUS cases of note | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 15, 2015

Who are similar defendants sentenced for similar crimes to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and John Rowland . . . AND WHY DO WE CARE?

As the text reveals, federal sentencing doctrines and state sentencing laws express in various ways an interest in achieving consistency in sentencing outcomes across a range of cases:  e.g.,

Arguably, the US Constitution might be thought (at least since the end of the Civil Law) to demand consistent sentencing outcomes over a range of cases: the Fourteenth Amendment, of course, precludes governments from "deny[ing] to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

We will begin next week by discussing the normative and practical issues raised by these kinds of commitments to sentencing consistency.  Normatively, I hope students can explain why we should have a strong commitment to sentencing consistency, especially if there is reason to worry that such a commitment may complicate efforts to achieve justice in each individual case.   Practically, I hope students can explain how we can effectively determine who are, in the words of federal law, "defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct"?  Helpfully, the on-going federal cases highlighted in the questionnaire provide a real-world lens to focus concretely on these abstract questions. 

Here is an alphabetical list of some defendants arguably similar to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (links via Wikipedia and with carnage; federal sentences they received):

Especially given that Tsarnaev is surely most similar to all those on this list other than McVeigh, does a commitment to sentencing consistency entail that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev must get an LWOP sentence?  If a federal jury in the Tsarnaev case were to return a sentence recommendation of death, should the presiding federal judge ignore that recommendation and impose LWOP in order to "avoid unwarranted sentence disparities" among similar defendants?

Here is an alphabetical list of some defendants arguably similar to former Connecticut Gov John Rowland (links via Wikipedia when available and federal prison sentences received):

Given that Rowland is facing sentencing for his second federal fraud/corruption charges, shouldn't concerns about sentencing consistency demand he now get a federal sentence of at least 6.5 years if not a lot more?

UPDATE as of 11am Monday: Kudos to those students who have already shared thoughtful comments below about the importance and challenges of achieving sentencing consistency.  

One important additional factor in this critical debate which we will discuss in class today (and throughout the semester) is WHICH ACTORS in the criminal justice system should be especially concerned with seeking sentencing consistency and HOW PROCEDURLLY shoud greater consistency be pursued:  e.g., should legislatures be especially concerned with sentence consistency and pursue it by enacting detailed sentencing guidelines and/or should sentencing judges be especially concerned with sentence consistency and pursue it by thoroughly researching "comparables" before imposing a sentence.

One especially notable actor in an especially notable setting that must confront these concerns a lot is a prosecutor in a jurisdiction with the death penalty.  For example, is it virtuous for an Ohio prosecutor, in the name of consistency, always pursue a capital charge for any statutory eligible murder and refuse to plea the case down to a lesser punishment (which is the stated policy of long-time Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters)?  Alternatively, as this new post on my main blog hints, should we be critical of the Colorado prosecutors in the Aurora killer James Holmes case for not being willing to take an LWOP plea given that prosecutors have often cut LWOP plea deals for other mentally-challenged mass killers like Ted Kaczynski (the Unibomber) and Jared Lee Loughner (the Tucson shooter). 

January 15, 2015 in Class activities, Data on sentencing, Offense Conduct, Theories of punishment | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Basic logistics concerning mini-paper assignments/requirements

As discussed in our first class, one course requirement is for students to author and submit at least three mini-papers throughout the semester.  Each of these mini-papers must be no more than two pages long, and the papers can be (1) thoughtful reflections on the prior two week's classes and readings, or (2) engaging discussions of an original topic/question/idea/challenge that I pose in class.

As set forth below, the submission dates and time for these mini-papers is generally every other Monday by 12noon:

As also explained in class, one goal for this assignment is to engender additional inter-student substantive discourse; that is why, subject to any stated objections/concerns for certain submissions, I expect to distribute everyone's submitted mini-papers back to the class for all to read and consider.

I will generally provide the original question/idea/challenge for certain mini-papers in class on the Tuesday right after the dates listed above and then provide links in this space to any supportive materials.  

The first question/idea/challenge, as you may recall, is to make recommendations concerning what the new Executive Director of the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission (OCSC) ought to have the OCSC working on these days.  Here are links to some OCSC materials that can provide helpful background for this topic:

January 15, 2015 in Class activities, Course requirements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 08, 2015

Pre-Class Questionnaire for pre-class completion

As mentioned in my e-mail to the class, your only formal responsibility before the first week of classes is to completed the short questionnaire that I have now uploaded here are a word document: 

Download 2015 1st Class Survey

As you will see from this document, you may want to (but need not) read pp. 1-17 in the text for some background on some of the terms used in the first question.  And the second question seeks feedback the topics listed in this class introduction post

In addition, the last question asks what sentence you would impose on former Connecticut Governor John Rowland at his upcoming federal sentencing. Background on this white-collar defendant and his crime can be found in these recent articles from the Hartford Courant:

January 8, 2015 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Very excited (and a bit overwhelmed) for another blog reboot for another semester of Sentencing Law

Welcome to the FIFTH(!) re-launch of this blogging adventure. This blog started eight years ago (with the uninspired title of Death Penalty Course @ Moritz College of Law) to facilitate student engagement in the Spring 2007 course on the death penalty that I taught at OSU's Moritz College of Law.

Though I closed this blog down not long after that course ended, I was pleased to see all the students' hard work as reflected in the archives still generating significant traffic and much of the posts remain timely. Consequently, when I geared up for teaching Sentencing in Spring 2009 at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and again when visiting in Spring 2010 at Fordham School of Law and again back at the Moritz College of Law in Fall 2011 and yet again in Spring 2014, I decided to reboot this blog to allow the new course to build (indirectly) in this space on materials covered before. In all of these classes, I was generally pleased with how this blog helped promote a new type of student engagement with on-line media and materials. (For the record, OSU students engaged with the blog much more and better with Fordham students. Go bucks!)

Now, circa January 2015, we all now get to work together again on Sentencing Law at the Moritz College of Law. T his time around, I am especially excited (and more than a bit overwhelmed) by all the interesting, high-profile and on-going sentencing cases, developments and projects that we will discuss and perhaps get directly involved with in  the months ahead. To highlight why I am so excited (and overwhelmed), I am going to list here just an abridged set of on-going stories we will be following on this blog and in the classroom:

Concerning the modern death penalty:

1. The federal capital trial of the Boston Marathon Bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has just begun. This case will provide a great focal point for theoretical and practical discussions of death penalty decision-making (and plea bargaining).

2. A federal court-ordered moratorium on executions in Ohio is due to expire next week and the Ohio General Assembly recently enacted a controversial new law to allow the state to acquire execution drugs in secret for future executions. These matters will provide a basis for discussing state laws and policies (and federal litigation) over administration of the death penalty.

3. I have been asked by federal and UK lawyers to help with efforts to review cases of Pakistan defendants scheduled to be executed. This project will provide an opportunity for students interesting in international/comparative death penalty work.

Concerning Eighth Amendment jurisprudence:

4. The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) recently took up the issue of whether its 2012 Miller v. Alabama Eighth Amendment ruling declaring unconstitutional mandatory life without parole (LWOP) for juvenile murderers should be applied retroactively. I am working on an amicus brief to be filed with the Court and welcome students to help with this effort.

5. The Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral argument next month concern whether the SCOTUS 2010 Graham v. Florida Eighth Amendment ruling declaring unconstitutional LWOP for juvenile non-homicide offenses should applied to a lengthy term-of-year sentence. I worked on an amicus brief filed in this case and hope to attend the oral argument (with students, if interested).

6. The Sixth Circuit recently rejected the claim that a 15-year mandatory federal sentence for an ex-felon's possession of shotgun shells was unconstitutional. I am working on an amicus brief to support a SCOTUS cert petition and welcome students to help with this effort.

Concerning the federal sentencing law and developments:

7. Many bipartisan bills for federal statutory sentencing reform stalled in the last Congress, and there is reason to suspect that some of these bills may get renewed attention in the new Congress. These matters will provide a basis for discussing the legislative role in sentencing law and policy.

8. Hearings for new Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch are likely to take place in the next few weeks, and she is sure to be asked about various criminal justice policies and practices of the Obama Administration. These matters will provide a basis for discussing the executive role sentencing law and policy (as well as some federalism issues).

9. The US Sentencing Commission is proposing new revisions to the federal sentencing guideline and continues to monitor federal sentencing patterns a decade after the US Supreme Court made these guidelines only advisory rather than mandatory. These matters will provide a basis for discussing the judiciary's role in sentencing policy and practice.

Concerning Ohio sentencing law and developments:

10. Despite statutory reforms a few years ago, Ohio's prison chief is warning about severe overcrowding in our prisons and is suggesting emergency release of prisoners might soon be required. These matters will provide a basis for discussing the costs and consequences of heavy reliance on incarceration in states.

11. The Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission (OCSC) has a new director who is eager to give this body a refreshed agenda. I will be asking you, quite soon, to write a short memo to the OCSC director giving advice about what this Commission should be doing.

12. There are already three distinct groups talking seriously about bringing major marijuana reform proposals to the ballot in the coming years. These realities will provide a basis for discussing the drug prohibitions and its sentencing impact as well as the virtues and vices of direct democracy as a means of criminal justice reform.

Believe it or not, I could readily list a few dozen more topics that we likely will be discussing in the days ahead on substantive topics ranging from white-collar fraud sentencing to sex offender registration laws to  victim's rights to receive restitution at sentencing and on procedural topics ranging from mandatory minimum sentencing provisions to plea bargaining to jury sentencing procedures.  But I trust the dozen issues noted above provides you a sense of why I am so execited (and more than a bit overwhelmed) by all the stuff we can be working on in this class.

At this stage, I am most interested in getting your input ASAP about which of these various topics (or other topics) interest you the most going forward.  Consequently, I would be eager to hear in the comments to this post which of the issues mentioned above are of greater interest (or of least interest) to you as students in this class.  If there is some rough consensus among students about the topics of greatest interest, we will be sure to spend more time on these topics.

 

WELCOME!

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January 8, 2015 in About this blog, Class activities | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

May 07, 2014

COURSE COMPLETION REMINDERS: Turn in final AND remind me of any extra credit completed

Just a few brief reminders for everyone still wrapping up this course:

1.  If you are writing a final paper, I would appreciate receiving BOTH a digital and a hard-copy before the end of this week. 

2.  If you are doing the take-home final, I think the computer system needs to have it completed by the end of the exam period on Thursday (though you can/should check with the registrar about eact timing for submission).

3.  Whatever final you have completed, be sure also to send me an e-mail to make sure I have a record of any/all the extra credit assignments that you completed and submitted to me this semester.

Thanks and congrats to everyone now wrapping up the class and your law school career!

May 7, 2014 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 23, 2014

Lots of extra credit for writing about lethal injection for JURIST

Late last night, I received this invitation/inquiry via e-mail:

Dear Professor Berman:

My name is Elizabeth Hand, and I am writing on behalf of the University of Pittsburgh JURIST's Dateline service. JURIST is an ABA and Webby award-winning legal news service that reaches hundreds of thousands of readers weekly. JURIST has been cited 700 times in law reviews and briefs to the US Supreme Court, state supreme courts, and federal appellate courts. It has also been cited in nearly 500 published books, and several hundred times by the Library of Congress Website.  Dateline is JURIST's student commentary service, and we seek original opinion-based articles from law students regarding their personal and work experiences in a field of law.

JURIST is looking for student commentary pieces covering the recent lawsuit over the state of Oklahoma's lethal injection drugs.  You can see our brief coverage of the case here: http://jurist.org/paperchase/2014/04/oklahoma-high-court-stays-executions-over-lethal-injection-drug-challenge.php.

We are looking for student op-eds exploring the legal issues surrounding the legality of the drugs and the overarching issues of capital punishment. If you could please extend this invitation to write to the any law students that you think would be interested in contributing it would be greatly appreciated.

Our authors, including our academic and professional authors, generally list their JURIST articles on their resumes along with journal, law review, and other publications.

Articles are approximately 1200 words in length and do not require Bluebook citations. For examples of recent articles please see: http://jurist.org/dateline/

I will give extra credit to any and every student who submits and op-ed, and double extra credit if you get your op-ed published!

April 23, 2014 in Class activities, Execution methods | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 07, 2014

With three weeks left, how are we doing on "low stress, high learning" on sentencing issues?

Sadly (at least from my perspective) we only have three more weeks together before classes conclude on April 23.  That means eight classes, and a mere 400 minutes, because we do not have class on Tuesday 4/15.  (Fortunately, as I will explain in class, this week and next we can have some extra time together through lots of extra-curricular sentencing activities on the calendar.)

As explained in prior posts and in class, we will be focused in our final few weeks on drug sentencing, offender characteristics and the back end of the (non-capital) sentencing system (e.g., parole and clemency).  In so doing, I hope to continue fulfilling my start-of-semester promise/desire to create a "low stress, high learning" environment for students.  And as we head into this final stretch, I want to provide this blog venue for expression of concerns, complaints, suggestions and any other feedback before it is too late for me to respond effectively.  (Obviously, you will all get a chance to share your views on the course in the formal evaluations at the very end of the semester, but at that point it will be too late for me to do anything in response that you will benefit from.)

In other words, I would be grateful for any/all student comments in response to this post about any subject related (or even not related) to the substance and style of our course.

April 7, 2014 in Class activities, Course requirements | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 30, 2014

With the killer bride and Rob Anon now behind bars, we will turn to drug sentencing and mandatory minimums

As reported fully here and here via my main blog, after Bridezilla Jordan Graham failed in her effort to withdraw her plea based on prosecutors' sentencing arguments, she was sentenced to 365 months in federal prison for having pushed her new husband off a cliff.  (Notably, the district judge at sentencing cited Graham's apparently lack of remorse when giving her this long a prison sentence.   Does this suggest she got a (much?) longer prison sentence not because of her offense but because of her failure to adequately say she was sorry after the fact?  Would it trouble you if the sentencing judge had said expressly that he was planning to give Graham 240 months if she had seem genuinely sorry when she spoke at sentencing but then increase the sentence another 10 years once her remorseless attitude was clear?)

We could easily continue dissecting the Graham case for another week, especially with respect to Chapter 5 topics regarding how her "offender characteristics" did/should impact her sentence.  Here, for example, are just some of the specific hard questions raised by this classic sentencing issue in the Graham case:  should her decision to plead guilty (at the last minute) reduce or increase her sentence? Should her lack of remorse matter a lot (as it seemed to the sentencing judge)?  How about her status as a newlywed?  Would it have properly mattered at sentencing if she had some temporary or permanent mental difficulties, e.g., suppose she was extra upset on the fateful night because she had just learned she was pregnant or suppose she had long been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had been off her meds since just before her wedding?   

But rather than continue to obsess over the killer bride  (or our old pal Rob Anon), I think it is time for us to move to the hottest (and perhaps most important and consequential) topic in non-capital sentencing: sentencing for drug offenses and legislative embrace of harsh (sometimes mandatory) minimum prison terms in an effort to deter drug crimes and their associated harms.  Helpfully, a couple of recent stories from my main blog provide timely information and background on these matters, and I highly recommend that all students read (or at least skim) this trio of new materials:

March 30, 2014 in Class activities, Current Affairs, Guideline sentencing systems, Interesting new cases | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 27, 2014

Some background and sentencing readings related to Ninth Circuit CJ Alex Kozinski

Kozinski-alexAs I have mentioned, on Wednesday April 2, we will have the honor and pleasure of having Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, visit our class. For basic background on this renown jurist, check out his Wikipedia entry and/or this (dated) Unofficial Judge Alex Kozinski Site and/or this 2005 Legal Affairs profile.  That profile has this headline and subheading: "THE BIG KOZINSKI; If the Ninth Circuit were a circus — and some say it is — Alex Kozinski would be its ringmaster."

Because he has written opinions and commentaries on every subject under the legal sun, it would be almost impossible to read even a small sample of all his views.  Fortunately, though, he has written a few especially high-profile (though now somewhat dated) pieces about death penalty jurisprudence and federal sentencing jurisprudence.  Here are links to a few highlights from this part of CJ Kozinski's corpus:

Concerning the death penalty, check out this lengthy co-authored 1995 op-ed in the New York Times given the headline "For an Honest Death Penalty." It starts this way:

It is a staple of American politics that there is very strong support for the death penalty; in opinion polls, roughly 70 percent consistently favor it. Yet the popular will on this issue has been thwarted.

To be sure, we have many capital trials, convictions and death sentences; we have endless and massively costly appeals; and a few people do get put to death every year. But compared to the number of death sentences, the number of executions is minuscule, and the gap is widening fast.

Note that, back in the early 1990s when this op-ed was authored, thoughtout the US there were often 300 death sentences imposed and only about 30 executions each year. Lately, in contrast, we have had in the US only about 75 death sentences and 40 executions each year.

On the topic of federal sentencing, I succeeded way back in 1999 to get CJ Kozinski to author this article for the Federal Sentencing Reporter a full five years before Booker made the Guidelines advisory.  It starts this way:

Once or twice a year I sit as a trial judge, usually in a criminal case. I've been doing it for many years and never cease to learn something new. I started before the Sentencing Guidelines, so I have sentenced defendants both with and without the Commission's guidance. I've had my doubts about the Guidelines; I even wrote an opinion saying they were unconstitutional. Doubts sometimes resurface when I sit as an appellate judge, but I have no doubts when I sit as a trial judge: I like the Guidelines and hope they're here to stay.

I found sentencing traumatic in the pre-Guidelines days. The sentencing range often spanned many years, sometimes all the way from probation to life in prison. Some judges may have the wisdom of Solomon in figuring out where in that range to select just the right sentence, but I certainly don't. Would too heavy a sentence destroy a young life and snuff out any chance of rehabilitation? Would too light a sentence embolden the defendant, endangering the lives of innocents? What deterrent effect will the sentence I impose have on others?

Deciding whether someone spent the next twenty years in prison or got straight probation was a burden almost too heavy to bear. Somehow I felt it was wrong for one human being to have that much power over another. Imposing sentence was, for me, almost an act of sacrilege.

Nor did it help that there was no appeal from the sentence. On the contrary, the very finality of the decision made it all the more difficult. If the sentence had been subject to appeal, someone else could have told me if I was way off the mark. But with no sentencing appeals, the burden lay entirely on my shoulders, and I didn't like it a bit.

Enter the Sentencing Guidelines and all this changed for the better. Gone are the wide open spaces for sentencing discretion. Sentencing ranges are narrow and presumably take into account all those factors I don't feel competent to weigh: punishment, deterrence, rehabilitation, harm to society, contrition--they're all engineered into the machine; all I have to do is wind the key. The Probation Officers in the Central District of California, where I mostly sit, do an excellent job and there are seldom disputes over the accuracy of the PSR. When there are, I do what I am competent to do--make factual findings.

Once I have figured out the range, I always sentence at the very bottom; I never depart up or down, unless it's a guided departure like substantial assistance or acceptance of responsibility. This is true whether a defendant has pleaded guilty or proceeded to trial; generally, I have found that the bottom end of a given Guideline range sufficiently captures a defendant's criminal culpability, and I very seldom run across a case so unusual as to warrant departure. If the sentence seems too harsh or too light, I no longer feel responsible.

March 27, 2014 in Class activities, Death penalty history, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 25, 2014

Sentencing submissions in US v. Graham: YOU BE THE SENTENCING JUDGE (and/or predict what the real judges will do)

As promised, here are links to the sentencing submission in US v. Graham (D. Montana):

As I mentioned in class, I am VERY interest in having students review these submissions and then comment/opine about (1) what sentence they would give if the sentencing judges in this case, and/or (2) what sentence they predict the actual federal sentencing judge will give on Thursday at the actual sentencing.

For anyone who makes a judgment/prediction that is spot on, I will reward with a special surprise prize.

UPDATE: Outcome is detailed over at SL&P: Remorseless killer bride gets sentenced to 30+ years in federal prison

March 25, 2014 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Interesting new cases | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 23, 2014

Seeking engagement on "offense" for sentencing purposes (with or without emphasis on "acquitted/uncharged conduct")

In this post from my main blog, titled "As a matter of law, policy and practice, what should be the 'offense' a sentencer considers?," I set out some ideas that I referenced in last Wednesday's class and that I am eager to review during our two classes this coming last full week of March. (Remember, class does not meet on 3/26; I suspect I have already conducted a make-up class with the extra minutes I have run class late some days.)

In that post (which I urge students to review), I explain why many challenging and controversial issues of modern sentencing can often relate to the consensus viewpoint that (1) offense(s) of conviction are a necessary and critical part of the "offense" to be considered at sentencing, but also that (2) at least some non-conviction, offense-related factors (such as a defendant's motive and role and the impact on victims) should also be considered sentencing.  The constitutional issues considered by the Supreme Court in Watts and the broader debate over whether sentencing guidelines should focus mostly/exclusively on the "charged" offense or the "real" offense depend to a large extent on whether concern (1) or concern (2) is considered most important at sentencing.

Usefully, an interesting and notable variation on the Watts case was decided by the DC Circuit less than 10 days ago in a multi-defendant case involving one defendant named Antwuan Ball.  I discussed the background and ruling in the Antwuan Ball case in this SL&P post titled "DC Circuit gives disconcertingly short-shrift to Antwuan Ball's many significant sentencing claims."  Here are the factual basics:

Ball put the government to its burden of proof concerning allegations of his involvement running a massive drug conspiracy in Washington DC; a very lengthy jury trial led to Ball being acquitted in November 2007 on every count of a massive racketeering, drug conspiracy and murder indictment save for one crack distribution count related to a $600, half-ounce, hand-to-hand crack-cocaine deal in 2001.

At sentencing, federal prosecutors urged the district judge to rely heavily on all sorts of alleged wrongdoing by Ball to impose a (statutory maximum) sentence of 40 years on the crack charge/conviction.  Relying on the prosecution's allegations that Ball was the leader of a huge crack conspiracy (claims which the jury concluded were not proven beyond a reasonable doubt), the district calculated Ball's guideline sentencing range to be 292 to 365 months (whereas Ball's guideline range would have been only 51 to 71 months absent consideration of "acquitted conduct").

District Judge Richard Roberts at sentencing declared that he "saw clear evidence of a drug conspiracy," and he ultimately decided to give Ball a (below-guideline-range) 225-month prison sentence for his conviction based on the 2001 hand-to-hand drug transaction. In other words, like the defendants in the Watts case that came before the US Supreme Court, Antwuan Ball's calculated guideline range and his actual sentence was significantly impacted by "real offense conduct" considered by the sentencing judge but not the basis for a conviction. But, as was likewise true for at least on of the Watts defendants, Antwuan Ball ultimately was eligible for and received a much lower sentence than he would have gotten had been convicted of all the offenses with which he had been charged. (Ball likely would have been facing a statutory mandatory LWOP if he had been convicted by the jury of being the leader of a big crack conspiracy.)

I have strong (but quite nuanced) views about what is wrong and what is not-so-wrong with how federal sentencing law now deals with defendants like Antwuan Ball, and you can become more informed and insightful than 99% of practitioners if/when you can understand why these issues are so philosophically and doctrinally challenging. And, to aid analysis, my post about the Ball case generated a pair of thoughtful posts at The Volokh Conspiracy:  Professor (and former federal sentencing judge) Paul Cassell got the ball rolling via this post titled "Should a drug dealer acquitted of running a drug ring be sentenced for running a drug ring?". And then Professor Will Baude chimed in via this post titled "The real constitutional problem with Antwuan Ball’s sentence." 

Among the reasons you might want to invest time/energy thinking through this case is because I likely will be authoring an amicus brief this coming summer in support of a cert petition if/when the lawyers for Antwuan Ball and his co-defendant decide to pursue further appeals.  I would welcome any and all student help and input now or later concerning such a project.

March 23, 2014 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Offense Conduct, SCOTUS cases of note | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 17, 2014

Make sure you work on (and are ready to discuss) FSG sentencing of Rob Anon

Monday's first post-break class will involve lots of catching up on events since our last gathering and lots of gearing up for our final six week of classes. It will help if everyone has already gone through the Rob Anon guideline sentencing experience, and having done so will be essential to getting the most out of our classes the rest of this month. If you have already done this exercise, do it again and/or review your work. If you have note done it yet, please do ASAP. And everyone is encouraged to discuss the experiences in the comments here.

March 17, 2014 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 14, 2014

Basketball, baseball, brews and professional bonding in the weeks ahead....

Now that March Madness and baseball's spring training are finally in full swing (and golf season and The Masters are on the horizon), I am likely to be grumpy any and every Thursday and Friday afternoons for the next month if/whenever I am in my Moritz office working rather than over at Eddie's watching sports of some sort.  But I always feel guilty (and lame/lonely) if I go over to EG's alone, and thus I mean through this post to encourage/bribe students to rescue me so I can rationalize a trip out of my office as a form of work/professional bonding with whomever comes and gets me.

As some of you know, I always buy the first round for any/everyone who pulls me out of my Moritz office at a convenient/appropriate time on a Thursday or Friday.  Today, for example, in addition to being Pi Day (3.14), I am especially eager to watch the Big Ten tournament (at least when the Buckeyes are playing; tip at 2:30pm).  

In subsequent weeks, there will be the NCAA Tourney, the official start of baseball season, and then The Masters to distract me from other (more productive?) endeavors.  If (when?) I start feeling guilty about too much afternoon time watching sports, I may have to take back this open invitation for professional bonding; until that time; PLEASE feel free to take advantage of my open-door EGs migration policies.  

March 14, 2014 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 12, 2014

If you want to spend a cold day in a warm appellate courtroom...

I will be driving down to Cincy this Thursday morning in order to participate in oral arguments before the Sixth Circuit in US v. Young.  Details about the case is available here at my main blog, and the arguments are slated third for session (as set forth on this calendar) scheduled to begin at 9am.  The panel hearing the case is composed of Judges Griffin, White, and Stranch in Room 403 of 540 Potter Stewart US Courthouse Building.

I will be driving down to Cincy in my Prius, which can hold up to 3 passengers. I already have one student scheduled for a ride, whom I plan to pick up in the Moritz parking lot at 7:20am on Thursday morning. Anyone ease eager to come along should let me know ASAP so I look for you at that time.

March 12, 2014 in Class activities, Interesting new cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 04, 2014

Hints and help for federal guidelines sentencing of Rob Anon

With apologies for the delay, I will through this post provide some hints and help for sentencing Rob Anon under the modern federal sentencing guidelines.  I will begin with a few links to the "official" on-line version of the now-applicable US Sentencing Guidelines as provided on the US Sentencing Commission's website:

I highly encourage class members to start working through these "basic" federal guideline sentencing materials on their own (and then use the comments to express frustration) before looking for any more sentencing help.  That said, if (when?) you want/need some more help, here is a link to a worksheet created by the US Sentencing Commission intended to aid in the guideline sentencing process:

If (when?) you still want/need still more help, a bit of effective google sluething should help you track down a free U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines calculator that was developed by a lawyer eager to help lawyers do quick and dirty guideline calculations for their clients. Unfortunately, that calculator does not appear to be updated after 2011, so I cannot vouch for its accuracy circa 2014.

As you work through this assignment (especially as it carries into the Spring Break), please feel free and encourage to express your perspective on what it feels like to sentence in the federal system now that a whole lot of law has been brought into the process.

March 4, 2014 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack