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Judging Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, 91 NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW 1247 (1997) (with J. Cabranes)


The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 sought to bring consistency, coherence, and accountability to a federal sentencing process that was deficient in these respects. Requiring sentencing judges to explain their decisions and permitting appellate review were, in our view, genuine accomplishments of the Act. Unfortunately, the potential contributions of these legislative achievements have been arrested by the implementation of a system of complex and rigid sentencing rules devised by an administrative agency in Washington. Here, we discuss two unintended consequences of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. First, the traditional sentencing ritual has lost much of its moral force and significance. Second, both sentencing judges and appellate judges have been denied the opportunity to develop a principled sentencing jurisprudence.

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