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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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