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NACDL’s fight to save judicial discretion
By Ralph Grunewald
As approved by the House of Representatives March 27, 2003, the
original Feeney Amendment would have virtually abolished judicial
discretion under the Sentencing Guidelines. This version applied to all federal
offenses and, among other things, would have prohibited departures
based on grounds not specified in the Sentencing Guidelines and repealed
many of the most important specified grounds. While the final
legislation is very troubling, significant improvements were achieved
through the efforts of NACDL, its members and other groups.
As soon as this stealth rider to the Amber Alert bill came to
light, NACDL immediately spread the word and prepared a letter in
opposition, which was signed by the Leadership Conference on Civil
Rights, Families Against Mandatory Minimums and others. Notwithstanding
our swift efforts, the House agreed (357-58) to accept the amendment and
went on to pass the bill. A procedural maneuver allowed the bill to
bypass the Senate Judic
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