United States Sentencing Commission
Agency overview
Formed1984
JurisdictionUnited States Judiciary
HeadquartersThurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building Washington, D.C.
Employees100
Agency executive
Websitewww.ussc.gov

The United States Sentencing Commission is an independent agency of the judicial branch of the U.S. federal government.[1] It is responsible for articulating the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines for the federal courts. The Commission promulgates the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which replaced the prior system of indeterminate sentencing that allowed trial judges to give sentences ranging from probation to the maximum statutory punishment for the offense. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

The commission was created by the Sentencing Reform Act provisions of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984.[1] The constitutionality of the commission was challenged as a congressional encroachment on the power of the executive but upheld by the Supreme Court in Mistretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361 (1989).

The U.S. Sentencing Commission was established by Congress as a permanent, independent agency within the judicial branch.[1] The seven members of the Commission are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, for a term of six years.[1] The Judicial Conference offers names of potential nominees to the President for nomination.[2] Commission members may be reappointed to one additional term, also with the advice and consent of the Senate. Some Commission members have been appointed to finish out the term of prior members instead of starting their own 6-year term, and therefore, not all Commission members have served six years or more.[3] Three of the members must be federal judges, and no more than four may belong to the same political party.[1] The Attorney General or his designee and the chair of the United States Parole Commission sit as ex officio, non-voting members of the Commission.[1] The Commission requires a quorum of at least four voting members in order to promulgate amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines.[4]

As of January 2022, the last time the Commission had a full membership (of seven voting members) was in 2014, when Patti B. Saris served as Chair, and the following six members served on the Commission: Ricardo H. Hinojosa, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Dabney L. Friedrich, William H. Pryor Jr., Rachel E. Barkow, and Danny C. Reeves.[5] Since January 2019, the commission has lacked a quorum and been unable to function.[6]

Current membership

As of March 2021:

Title Member Occupation Date appointed Term expiration
Acting Chair and Commissioner Charles R. Breyer Senior Judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of California March 21, 2017 October 31, 2021
Commissioner vacant
Commissioner vacant
Commissioner vacant
Commissioner vacant
Commissioner vacant
Commissioner vacant
(Ex officio Commissioner)
(non-voting)
Patricia K. Cushwa Acting Chair, United States Parole Commission
(Ex officio Commissioner)
(non-voting)
(Attorney General's designee)
Jonathan J. Wroblewski Director, Office of Policy and Legislation, U.S. Department of Justice

Former membership

As listed on the U.S. Sentencing Commission's website:[7]

Former Members of the U.S. Sentencing Commission
Title Member Occupation Date appointed Term expiration
Chairman William W. Wilkins, Jr. Judge, U.S. District Circuit, South Carolina; subsequently elevated to U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit 1985 1994
Stephen G. Breyer Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit (later Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States) 1985 1989
George E. MacKinnon Senior Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit 1985 1991
Ilene H. Nagel Professor of Law and Sociology, Indiana University School of Law 1985 1994
Helen G. Corrothers Member, U.S. Parole Commission 1985 1991
Michael K. Block Professor of Law and Economics, University of Arizona 1985 1989
Paul H. Robinson Professor of Law, Rutgers Law School 1985 1988
Vice Chair 1994-1996 A. David Mazzone Judge, U.S. District Court, D. Massachusetts 1990 1996
Julie E. Carnes Assistant U.S. Attorney, N.D. Georgia. Subsequently was appointed as a federal district court judge for the Northern District of Georgia and continued to serve on the Commission.) 1990 1996
Vice Chair 1994-1998 Michael S. Gelacak Attorney, McNair Firm, Washington, D.C. 1990 1998
Chairman, 1994-1998 Richard P. Conaboy Senior Judge, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania 1994 1998
Deanell R. Tacha Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit 1994 1998
Vice Chair, 1995-97 (holdover status ended 10/21/98) Michael Goldsmith Professor of Law, Brigham Young University Law School 1994 1998
Wayne A. Budd Attorney, Goodwin, Procter & Hoar, Boston, MA 1994 1997
Joe Kendall Judge, U.S. District Court, N.D. Texas 1999 2002
Sterling Johnson, Jr. Judge, U.S. District Court, E.D. New York 1999 2002
Chair, 1999-2004 Diana E. Murphy Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit 1999 2004
Michael E. O’Neill Assistant Professor, George Mason University School of Law 1999 2005
Vice Chair, 1999 - 2007 John R. Steer General Counsel, U.S. Sentencing Commission 1999 2007
Michael E. Horowitz Attorney, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, Washington, DC 2003 2008
Chair, 2009-2010; Vice Chair, 1999-2009 William K. Sessions III Judge and later elevated to Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, District of Vermont 1999 2010
Vice Chair, 1999-2010 Ruben Castillo Judge, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois 1999 2010
Beryl A. Howell Executive Managing Director and General Counsel, Stroz Friedberg, LLC, Washington, DC; subsequently appointed to the U.S. District Court, District of Columbia and later Chief Judge. 2004 2012
Vice Chair, 2008-2012 William B. Carr, Jr. Adjunct Professor of Law, Widener Law School, Wilmington, DE 2008 2012
Chair, 2003-2010; Vice Chair, 2011-2014 Ricardo H. Hinojosa Judge and later Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas 2003 2014
Vice Chair, 2010-2014 Ketanji Brown Jackson Attorney, Morrison & Foerster LLP, later appointed to Judge, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia 2010 2014
Dabney L. Friedrich Associate Counsel, Office of Counsel to the President, Washington, DC, later appointed to Judge, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia 2006 according to USSC (February 28, 2007 according to Congress.gov[8]) 2016
Chair, December 22, 2010[9]-2016 Patti B. Saris Judge and later Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts December 22, 2010[10] 2016
Acting Chair, January 3, 2017[11]-2018 William H. Pryor Jr. Judge, U.S. Circuit Court, Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals June 6, 2013[12] 2018
Rachel E. Barkow Segal Family Professor of Regulatory Law and Policy, New York University School of Law June 2013[13] 2018 according to USSC (January 2019 according to NYU Law[14])
Danny C. Reeves Judge, and later Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky March 21, 2017[15] March 2021

"Drugs Minus Two Amendment"

On April 10, 2014, the Commission unanimously voted to approve the "Drugs Minus Two Amendment."[16] The "Drugs Minus Two Amendment" changed the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines by "reduce[d] the applicable sentencing guideline range for most federal drug trafficking offenses."[16] The Commission voted to make the Amendment retroactive on July 18, 2014, "thereby allowing eligible offenders serving a previously imposed term of imprisonment to file a motion under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) for a sentence reduction."[16]

2015 actions

After a visit to a federal prison in Oklahoma by President Barack Obama in July 2015,[17] the Commission issued new retroactive sentencing guidelines in October which lowered sentences for many drug offenders. The sentencing panel estimated that roughly 46,000 of 100,000 drug offenders serving federal sentences would qualify for early release. 6,000 would be released in November but 1/3 of those inmates were to be turned over to I.C.E. for deportation proceedings.[18][19] The commission's change represents an overall change in prosecution of drug-related offences.[20] In response to the change, senators, in a bipartisan effort, are attempting to reduce minimum sentences for these offenses.[21]

Judicial Conference of the United States Commissioner Candidate Suggestions

In April 2021, the Judicial Conference of the United States sent the following candidate suggestions to President Biden: Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo (to represent a Democrat seat), Judge Denise Jefferson Casper (Democrat seat), Judge Abdul Kallon (Democrat seat), Judge Carol Bagley Amon (Republican seat), Judge Federico Moreno (Republican seat), and Judge Michael Seabright (Republican seat).[22]

Past Presidential Commissioner Nominations

President Barack Obama Nominees

On April 20, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated William K. Sessions III, of Vermont, to be Chair of the Commission.[23]

On July 23, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to be a Commissioner.[24]

On April 28, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Patti B. Saris as Commissioner and Chair, and nominated Dabney Langhorne Friedrich as a Commissioner (for a second term).[25]

In April 2012, President Barack Obama nominated Senior District Judge Charles R. Breyer of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California as a Commissioner.[26][27]

In April 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Rachel Elise Barkow, of New York, to be a Member of the United States Sentencing Commission; Charles R. Breyer, of California, to be a Member of the United States Sentencing Commission; Vernon S. Broderick, of New York, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York; and William H. Pryor Jr., of Alabama, to be a Member of the United States Sentencing Commission.[28]

On September 9, 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Richard Franklin Boulware II and Judge Charles R. Breyer as Commissioners.[29]

On March 15, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Danny C. Reeves as a Commissioner.[30]

On January 17, 2017, President Barack Obama nominated Charles R. Breyer for reappointment and Danny C. Reeves as a Commissioner.[31]

President Donald Trump Nominees

In March of 2018, President Donald Trump said he intended to nominate four candidates to the Commission: "Judge William Pryor of Alabama, Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo of Pennsylvania, Judge Henry Hudson of Virginia and Georgetown University law professor William Graham Otis."[32]

On August 12, 2020, President Donald Trump nominated five individuals to join the Sentencing Commission: Judge K. Michael Moore, of Florida, as Chairman of the United States Sentencing Commission; Judge Claria Horn Boom, of Kentucky, as a Commissioner of the United States Sentencing Commission; Judge Henry E. Hudson, of Virginia, as a Commissioner of the United States Sentencing Commission; John G. Malcolm (Vice President for the Institute for Constitutional Government and the Director of the Meese Center for Legal & Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation), as a Commissioner of the United States Sentencing Commission; and Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo, of Pennsylvania, as a Commissioner of the United States Sentencing Commission.[33][34] In a blog post, Professor Douglas A. Berman questioned whether it was feasible for all five individuals to be confirmed, as the Commission can have no more than four members from any one political party, there was already one Republican member on the Commission at the time, and all five nominees appeared to be Republicans.[35]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f "An Overview of the United States Sentencing Commission" (PDF). United States Sentencing Commission. United States Sentencing Commission. Archived from the original on 12 August 2006. Retrieved 9 August 2011.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  2. ^ "Near-Vacant Sentencing Panel Gives Biden Chance for Fresh Start". news.bloomberglaw.com. Retrieved 2021-12-13.
  3. ^ "PN34 - Nomination of Dabney Langhorne Friedrich for United States Sentencing Commission, 110th Congress (2007-2008)". www.congress.gov. 2007-02-28. Retrieved 2021-12-13.
  4. ^ "Organization". United States Sentencing Commission. 2016-02-02. Retrieved 2021-12-13.
  5. ^ "Former Commissioner Information". United States Sentencing Commission. 2013-10-28. Retrieved 2021-12-13.
  6. ^ "U.S. sentencing panel's last member Breyer urges Biden to revive commission". Reuters. November 11, 2021.
  7. ^ "Former Commissioner Information". United States Sentencing Commission. 2013-10-28. Retrieved 2021-12-09.
  8. ^ "PN34 - Nomination of Dabney Langhorne Friedrich for United States Sentencing Commission, 110th Congress (2007-2008)". www.congress.gov. 2007-02-28. Retrieved 2021-12-13.
  9. ^ "PN1713 - Nomination of Patti B. Saris for United States Sentencing Commission, 111th Congress (2009-2010)". www.congress.gov. 2010-12-22. Retrieved 2021-12-13.
  10. ^ "PN1714 - Nomination of Patti B. Saris for United States Sentencing Commission, 111th Congress (2009-2010)". www.congress.gov. 2010-12-22. Retrieved 2021-12-13.
  11. ^ "January 3, 2017". United States Sentencing Commission. 2016-12-28. Retrieved 2021-12-13.
  12. ^ "PN324 - Nomination of William H. Pryor Jr. for United States Sentencing Commission, 113th Congress (2013-2014)". www.congress.gov. 2013-06-06. Retrieved 2021-12-13.
  13. ^ "Rachel E. Barkow - Biography | NYU School of Law". its.law.nyu.edu. Retrieved 2021-12-13.
  14. ^ "Rachel E. Barkow - Biography | NYU School of Law". its.law.nyu.edu. Retrieved 2021-12-13.
  15. ^ "PN85 - Nomination of Danny C. Reeves for United States Sentencing Commission, 115th Congress (2017-2018)". www.congress.gov. 2017-03-21. Retrieved 2021-12-13.
  16. ^ a b c U.S. Sentencing Commission (July 2020). "Retroactivity & Recidivism: The Drugs Minus Two Amendment" (PDF). U.S. Sentencing Commission. Retrieved December 14, 2021.
  17. ^ "Obama Visits Federal Prison, A First For A Sitting President". Archived from the original on 2018-04-02. Retrieved 2018-04-04.
  18. ^ "U.S. to release 6,000 federal prisoners - Washington Post". Archived from the original on 2015-10-27. Retrieved 2017-01-15.
  19. ^ "U.S. to release 6,000 federal inmates as part of prison reform". 6 October 2015. Archived from the original on 7 October 2015. Retrieved 7 October 2015.
  20. ^ "The US Is Going to Let Nearly 6,000 Drug Offenders Out of Federal Prison Early - VICE News". Archived from the original on 2015-10-13. Retrieved 2015-10-07.
  21. ^ Project, The Marshall (7 October 2015). "What You Need To Know About The New Federal Prisoner Release". Archived from the original on 28 April 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2018 – via Huff Post.
  22. ^ "Near-Vacant Sentencing Panel Gives Biden Chance for Fresh Start". news.bloomberglaw.com. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  23. ^ "Presidential Nominations Sent To The Senate, 4-20-2009". whitehouse.gov. 2009-04-20. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  24. ^ "President Obama Nominates Ketanji Brown Jackson to U.S. Sentencing Commission". The White House. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  25. ^ "President Obama Nominates Two United States Sentencing Commission". The White House. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  26. ^ "Presidential Nominations Sent to the Senate". whitehouse.gov. 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  27. ^ "Northern California Judge Nominated to U.S. Sentencing Commission". www.ca9.uscourts.gov. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  28. ^ "Presidential Nominations Sent to the Senate". whitehouse.gov. 2013-04-15. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  29. ^ "President Obama Nominates Two to Serve on the United States Sentencing Commission". whitehouse.gov. 2015-09-09. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  30. ^ "President Obama Nominates Judge Danny C. Reeves to Serve on the United States Sentencing Commission". whitehouse.gov. 2016-03-15. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  31. ^ "Presidential Nominations Sent to the Senate". whitehouse.gov. 2017-01-17. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  32. ^ "Trump announces slate of nominees for U.S. Sentencing Commission". Reuters. 2018-03-01. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  33. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate and Appoint Individuals to Key Administration Posts – The White House". trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  34. ^ "Sentencing Law and Policy: Prez Trump finally announces full slate of (unlikely to be confirmed?) new nominees for the US Sentencing Commission". sentencing.typepad.com. Retrieved 2021-12-14.
  35. ^ "Sentencing Law and Policy: Prez Trump finally announces full slate of (unlikely to be confirmed?) new nominees for the US Sentencing Commission". sentencing.typepad.com. Retrieved 2021-12-14.