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7th Circuit upholds precedent but asks for further guidance from U.S. Sentencing Commission

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Although a gun buyer had his sentence affirmed, his argument for reduced time has caused the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to call upon the Sentencing Commission to clarify a section of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

The case, United States of America v. Tristan Davis, 12-3552, was appealed from the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division.

Davis pleaded guilty to two counts of lying to gun dealers and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. His offense level, and possibly his sentence, would have been lower if the District judge had given him a three-level reduction for accepting responsibility by pleading guilty. However, the prosecutor declined to move for the subtraction of a third level under U.S.S.G. 3E1.1(b) because Davis refused to waive his right to appeal.  

Davis contended that a motion from the prosecutor is mandatory whenever the defendant pleads guilty early enough and spares the prosecutor the burden of trial preparation.

In United States v. Deberry, 576 F.3d 708 (7th Cir. 2009), the court rejected that 3E1.1(b) requires a prosecutor to file a motion, noting the statute confers an entitlement on the prosecutor, not on the defendant.

Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, in his opinion for Davis, noted the courts of appeals are divided on this issue. While a majority has reached the same conclusion as Deberry, two have sided with Davis’s contention that a court may direct the prosecutor to file a motion even if the prosecutor’s reason for withholding that motion does not violate the Constitution.

“This circuit could not eliminate the conflict by changing sides, so stare decisis supports standing pat,” Easterbrook wrote. “Resolution of this conflict is the province of the Supreme Court or the Sentencing Commission.”

Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner wrote a concurring opinion, also calling upon the Sentencing Commission to give further guidance.

However, she explained she does not believe that section 3E1.1(b) permits the government to insist that a defendant waive his appellate rights before it will ask the court to grant him an addition one-level decrease in his offense level for acceptance of responsibility.

Rovner noted sentencing judges can err when imposing sentences and these errors are rarely attributable to the defendant. Consequently, the defendant has a right to be sentenced accurately and fairly. Nothing in section 3E1.1(b), she continued, requires the defendant to accept responsibility for the court’s errors as well as his own.

 

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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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