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Compassion stripped from the federal bench
By Daniel Dodson
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 s
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