News Release ~ 09/23/2003

NACDL applauds Judicial Conference statement on judicial sentencing discretion

Washington, DC (September 23, 2003) -- The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers welcomes today''s decision by 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 Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which prescribe sentencing ranges based primarily on the type of offense and the defendant''s criminal history.

E.E. "Bo" Edwards, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, today issued the following statement in response to the announcement of the Judicial Conference to seek repeal of certain provisions of the PROTECT Act:

"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 justice system metes out one-size-fits-all sentences that are frequently too harsh. Congress should let judges be judges."

A news release issued by the Judicial Conference notes the JUDGES Act, which is pending in both the House and Senate as H.R. 2213 and S. 1086, respectively, would repeal many of the provisions of the PROTECT Act that limit judicial discretion.

To read the Judicial Conference news release, visit http://www.uscourts.gov/Press_Releases/jc903.pdf.

For more information on the PROTECT Act and JUDGES Act, visit http://www.nacdl.org/departures.

Edwards is a criminal defense lawyer in Nashville. He can be reached at (615) 356-5137.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 9,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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