ILNews

Judges need more details on reduction denial

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2009
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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is sending the denial of a defendant's motion for a sentence reduction back to the District Court because the Circuit Court needs more than the one-sentence explanation given by the lower court.

U.S. District Court Judge Larry J. McKinney of the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, denied Kelvin Marion's motion to reduce his sentence under Section 3582(c)(2) on a form order that simply said "As directed by 18 U.S.C. § 3581(c)(2) the Court has considered the relevant factors in U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(b) and 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) and determined a sentence reduction is not appropriate."

In United States of America v. Kelvin Marion, No. 09-2525, the Circuit judges found the lower court's written analysis to be too terse to allow for a meaningful review on appeal. Marion pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base and was sentenced to 160 months in 2000. He moved under Section 3582(c)(2) to reduce his sentence, which the District Court denied with the one-sentence explanation.

A District Court doesn't need to provide a detailed, written explanation analyzing every factor, but it must provide some statement of its reasoning for the Circuit Court to meaningfully review the lower court's decision, wrote Judge Michael S. Kanne.

The Circuit judges believed a District Court's order on a motion for sentence reduction should at least address briefly any significant events that may have happened since the original sentencing.

"If the district court believes that nothing particularly noteworthy has changed concerning the basis for the defendant's original sentence, some simple explanation to that effect will apprise both the defendant and this court of that fact," wrote the judge.

Judge Kanne cautioned that the Circuit Court's ruling in the instant case shouldn't be read to expand what is required of a District Court when sentencing a defendant or considering a motion to reduce a sentence under Section 3582(c)(2). There's nothing wrong with using a form order or having only a one-sentence explanation. But it's impossible for the Circuit Court to ensure the lower court didn't abuse its discretion if the order only shows the District Court exercised its discretion rather than showing how it exercised that discretion, he wrote.
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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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