Federal Guideline Sentencing

Federal Guideline Sentencing

  • This essay assignment deals with the strange life (and perhaps death) of Federal Guideline Sentencing.
  • To accurately address this topic you should briefly mention the relationship between Judicial Discretion in Sentencing and Sentencing Disparity(This discussion should not account for more than 150 words in your essay).
  • You need to understand/explain why the essence of that relationship is that Judicial Discretion in Sentencing directly leads to Sentencing Disparity;
  • This is the primarily problem that guideline sentencing was intended to address. The essay question is:


  • Briefly describe “guideline sentencing” and explain the important developments in “guideline sentencing” that have occurred over the past two decades (do not discuss events prior to 1992), explaining WHY dramatic changes have been made by the U.S. Supreme Court in Federal Guideline Sentencing.


RESEARCH: There are many summaries of the law in this area available on-line. See, for example: http://www.fd.org/odstb_sentencingresource3.htm.   You can easily become overwhelmed by the huge amount of material on this subject. Be careful to stick to the essay question.

ATTN:  Your case research should include:

  • Blakely v. Washington 542 U.S. 296 (2004)
  • S. v. Booker543 U.S. 220 (2005)
  • The U. S. Supreme Court has provided clarification about the changes the Booker case has brought about in:
    • Rita v. United States, 551 U.S. 338 (2007)
    • Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38 (2007)





-While the cases you refer to in your essay need to be briefly described, DO NOT describe unnecessary facts in this Essay. Your description of the facts should be accomplished in no more than three sentences. The focus of your Essay should not be on the Rita case or the Gall case (discussion of these cases should be brief but they should be analyzed carefully). Those are two of a number of cases that explain what the Supreme Court wanted to do in the Booker case. Your Essay should be focused on Booker. I recommend that you not mention any cases other than those listed above because you need to devote most of your Essay to the ANALYSIS of the Booker decision (including the constitutional basis for the decision).


-There is one specific area that I do not want this essay to address. Previously the Guidelines reflected a statutory scheme that made defendants charged with possession of crack cocaine subject to the same sentencing ranges as those defendants trafficking in 100 times more powder cocaine; thus, the sentences for crack cocaine offenses were three to over six times longer than those for offenses involving equivalent amounts of powder cocaine. This was an important issue but it has been resolved; with a strict word limit for this essay you do not have room to get off on a tangent such as this. Do notdiscuss it in your essay.

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