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By Daniel Dodson
NACDL News columns.
NACDL was encouraged in September by the decision of the federal courts’
policy-making body to seek repeal of recent restrictions on judicial
sentencing discretion. The Feeney Amendment, which was enacted April 30,
2003, as an amendment to a popular child protection bill, calls for
restrictions on the authority of federal judges to impose sentences
outside the narrow range specified by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
Since 1987, federal sentencing discretion has been limited by the
sentencing guidelines, which prescribe sentencing ranges based primarily
on the type of offense and the defendant’s criminal history.
“The Feeney Amendment represents an unwarranted attack on the
independence of the federal judiciary. It’s also bad sentencing policy.
No sentencing system can predict the full range of offense and offender
characteristics relevant to sentencing. Without judicial discretion to
tailor the punishment based on unforeseen circumstances, our criminal
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