(Note to ALL: While this thread is occasioned by the inordinately light sentence handed to Paul Manafort, it is not ABOUT Paul Manafort. Nor is it about racial disparities, real or perceived, or class disparities, real or perceived. Please leave such comments or discussions in the existing threads.)
Rather, this thread is about the real need for Constitutionally sanctioned MANDATORY federal sentencing guidelines.
Currently, federal sentencing guidelines exist, but under a Supreme Court ruling, they are advisory only. While a federal judge is still required to CONSULT the guidelines during sentencing, they are free to ignore them, and issue sentences that are subject only to the statutory maximums (and minimums if applicable.)
The result is what we have seen and are likely ABOUT to see with Paul Manafort.
One judge that went ridiculously below the guidelines. And in the upcoming sentencing, very likely a judge that will EXCEED the sentencing guidelines and very likely hand Paul Manafort his testicles in the court room. Judge Jackson is known for lowering the boom on defendants and is noted for exceeding the guidelines.
But we should not sanction EITHER of these two situations. The sentence handed down by Elliot was wrong and hopefully will be raised on appeal. Yes, the appeals court can raise a sentence if the sentencing judge went below the guideline range, but don’t always do so. But if Jackson exceeds the sentencing guidelines, that is not anymore a just outcome and should not meet with anybody’s approval.
For justice to be justice, it must be consistent. A defendant should not be in a situation where his sentence depends upon the Judge randomly assigned to his case. If he gets a Judge Elliot or a Judge Jackson, he should be able to expect a consistent and just sentence.
I don’t believe mandatory guidelines are a violation of due process and I think the Supreme Court should reverse itself, at least as far as necessary to permit introduction of a system of mandatory guidelines, which should start with the existing voluntary guidelines. In fact, I think mandatory guidelines ENHANCE due process, by ensuring consistency of outcome.
Once guidelines are in place, departures from the guidelines would require the judge to give a detailed explanation of the reason or reasons for departure from the guidelines and the defendant (or prosecutors if the departure was downwards) would be able to directly appeal such departure to the Court of Appeals and the concurrence of all three panel judges would be required to uphold a departure in either direction.
And again I would ask that people NOT bring up the motivations (real or perceived) behind Judge Elliot’s downward departure from the sentencing guidelines. Please leave those discussions in the other Manafort threads.
This is more a thread for solutions to the sentencing issues.