Where Procedure Meets Substance: Making the Most of the Need for Adequate Explanation In Federal Sen

Some may believe that challenging a district court's sentencing procedure on appeal is not likely to result in better outcomes because the court will simply do a better job on remand addressing arguments and explaining its decision, but still impose the same sentence. But this is not so. When courts of appeals insist that the district courts fully address the evidence and arguments presented by the parties regarding the appropriate sentencing, and then explain their decision to accept or reject those arguments, actual outcomes are different on remand, sometimes significantly so. In exercising the review power accorded to them in Booker and further elucidated in Rita, appellate courts cannot only promote more fair and reasoned sentences in individual cases, but can also exercise a meaningful role in the evolution of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines envisioned by the Supreme Court. Jennifer Niles Coffin demonstrates that a properly framed appeal resulting in reversal for procedural error under the abuse-of-discretion standard leads more often than not to substantively different results.