30 July 2006

Sentencing Guidelines Imperfect.

When the United States Sentencing Guidelines produced an 85 year sentence for a minor participant in a securities fraud conspiracy, New York Federal Judge Rakoff, gave reason and common sense a chance -- looking mostly a precedents from other more serious white collar cases where defendants got shorter sentences, producing a three and a half year sentence for the defendant in question.

As he explained, the case exposed:

the utter travesty of justice that sometimes results from the guidelines' fetish with abstract arithmetic, as well as the harm that guideline calculations can visit on human beings if not cabined by common sense. . . . where, as here, the calculations under the guidelines have run so amok that they are patently absurd on their face, a Court is forced to place greater reliance on the more general considerations . . . as carefully applied to the particular circumstances of the case and of the human being who will bear the consequences.

Rakoff has it right.

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