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The Champion

May 2003 , Page 4 

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The federal sentencing guidelines and the end of the adversary system

By Lawrence Goldman

Read more President's Column columns.

As I write, Congress, at the behest of the Department of Justice, is considering a bill that will minimize the already limited discretion federal judges have in sentencing matters.  If the bill passes the Republican-controlled Congress, there will be a further shift of power to the prosecutor, who already determines who to charge, what to charge, and, often, what the sentence will be.  The role of the judge in the vast majority of criminal felony cases, those which result in guilty pleas, will be limited in most instances to determining where in a narrow range —  essentially determined by the prosecutor — the defendant should be sentenced.

The practice of criminal law in the federal courts is already far different than it was some years ago before the Sentencing Guidelines were enacted and, largely as a result of the Guidelines, the United States attorney was given effective control of sentencing decisions.  The adversary system that we learned about in la

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