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The Champion

May 2003 , Page 06 

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NACDL News: Compassion stripped from the federal bench

By G. Jack King

Read more NACDL News columns.

Criminal defense lawyers, judges, and civil rights groups want the Senate to knock out last-minute House amendments to the Amber Alert bill that would strip federal judges of the last remaining vestiges of discretion in sentencing federal offenders. The amendments, which would potentially affect all federal defendants, are completely unrelated to the underlying Amber Alert legislation. “The [Federal Sentencing] Guidelines are already a straightjacket for judges,” said NACDL President Lawrence Goldman. “They have already severely limited judges’ ability to make individualized sentences.”  

The amendments to the bill pending in Congress would greatly hamper the ability of judges to depart downward from the recommended Guideline sentence, unless the prosecution agreed. Departures for military service and extraordinary family responsibilities, for instance, would be prohibited.  

Several civil rights groups signed on to an NACDL letter to House members opposing the provision the evening befo

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