24 January 2006

Rule of Law

Alberto Gonzales is in charge of the Justice Department. One of the ideas he seems to have trouble with is that idea that government lawyers are bound by and should follow the law in conducting their business. Another case in point comes from a recent sentencing decision:

After Booker, no one can reasonably dispute the fact that sentencing courts have discretion to impose a sentence lesser than the low end of the Guideline range, so long as that sentence is reasonable in light of the Section 3553(a) factors. Nonetheless, the Department of Justice ("DOJ") continues to do so. At every sentencing hearing before this Court, the prosecution recommends a Guideline-range sentence, making no effort to explain that recommendation in light of the Section 3553(a) factors. After any below-Guideline sentence, the prosecutor routinely objects, and the only explanation offered is that the sentence falls short of the Guideline range. Obviously (though not openly), the government continues to maintain its policy that the only reasonable sentence is one that falls within or exceeds the Guideline range — a position that obviously contradicts the Supreme Court's pronouncements in Booker. And DOJ has maintained this posture even though the Eleventh Circuit has explicitly rejected its argument that a sentence in the Guideline range is, per se, a reasonable sentence.

By continuing to insist that this Court rigidly adhere to the Guidelines, prosecutors are violating their obligation as officers of the Court and failing to provide this Court with any meaningful assistance in crafting a reasonable, just sentence.

The Justice Department decision to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Booker which repealed the United States Sentencing Guidelines, is visible in court opinions all across the nation. It is a matter of policy being implemented by the Bush Administration. It is just as obnoxious coming from the Justice Department as it is coming from Roy Moore's protege in the Alabama Supreme Court, or from Roy Moore, who was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court for misconduct for defying court orders. It is one thing to try to interpret a confusing legal decision, it is another to ignore binding precedent.

Since when did the Republican Party become the party of anarchy? Politicans can whine about judges, but judges and lawyers, especially lawyers for the government charged with upholding the law, have an obligation to implement the law even if they don't like how the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.

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