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Statement By Senator Edward M. Kennedy On Federal Sentencing

Location: Washington, DC


Today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy released the following statement:

"The Supreme Court will soon hear arguments in United States v. Claiborne and Senators Hatch, Feinstein, and I have filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to harmonize its jurisprudence with the structure and goals of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. Congress enacted and President Reagan signed this bipartisan legislation after a decade if inter-branch, bicameral and bipartisan deliberations -- the most careful examination of sentencing policy ever conducted by Congress. The issue in Claiborne is very important for federal sentencing. Our brief urges the Supreme Court to affirm the ruling of the 8th Circuit remanding the case for resentencing because the sentencing judge failed to state a sufficiently clear and principled rationale that can be readily applied by other courts in similar cases.

In United States v. Booker, the Court held in 2005 that the Sixth Amendment is violated by the imposition of an enhanced sentence based on findings of fact made by a judge rather than a jury. To correct this violation, the Court made the federal sentencing guidelines advisory, not mandatory. It chose this remedy to achieve a sentencing system that satisfies constitutional standards and advances the intent of Congress to eliminate unwarranted disparities, achieve transparency in sentencing, and impose sentences tailored to the offender and the crime.

In our brief, we agree that these goals should continue to guide the Court's sentencing jurisprudence and the surviving provisions of the Sentencing Reform Act. If respected faithfully by the courts, the Sentencing Commission, and Congress, the federal sentencing guidelines can still provide the framework for a cohesive and effective sentencing system. We urge the Court to apply these provisions with the purpose of establishing a more effective national law on sentencing: a body of principled rules, developed through the reasoned judgment of judges across the nation, to enhance fairness and achieve transparency and consistency."

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