Minutes from November 17, 2004

Minutes of the November 17, 2004
United States Sentencing Commission
Public Meeting Minutes

Chair Hinojosa called the meeting to order at 9:30 a.m. in the Federal Judicial Conference Meeting Room.

The following Commissioners and staff participated in the meeting:
Ricardo H. Hinojosa, Chair
Ruben Castillo, Vice Chair
William K. Sessions, III, Vice Chair
John R. Steer, Vice Chair
Michael O’Neill, Commissioner
Michael E. Horowitz, Commissioner
Deborah Rhodes, Ex Officio
Edward F. Reilly, Jr., Ex Officio
Timothy B. McGrath, Staff Director

As the first order of business, Chair Hinojosa asked for approval of the last public meeting minutes dated August 25, 2004. There being no additions or corrections, Vice Chair Castillo moved that they be approved. Upon being seconded by Commissioner O’Neill, they were unanimously approved. Chair Hinojosa then announced the release of the United States Sentencing Commission’s 15-year report. The report will be available on the Commission’s website. The Chair noted that the report was the result of the work performed by many people and he expressed the Commissioner’s appreciation for all their efforts. He especially thanked Paul Hofer, the primary drafter of the report, for his efforts in getting the report completed at this crucial time in the Commission’s history. He also thanked Pat Valentino who did the final editing on the report. The Chair called on Staff Director Tim McGrath to give his report.

Mr. McGrath reported that the Commission’s electronic case filing system pilot is a success. The system allows the courts to electronically file the documents required under the PROTECT Act. The courts from five districts participated in the pilot program and as of November 10, they have sent the Commission over 400 cases. The system, which was developed internally by the Commission and without additional funding, will be expanded in January to include more districts.

Turning next to the Commission’s training efforts, Mr. McGrath reported that a new probation officer’s training program was currently underway in Washington, DC. In November, the Commission participated in a training session for new judges in Ft. Worth, Texas and another session for prosecutors at the National Advocacy Center in Columbia, South Carolina. The Staff Director concluded his report by stating that the Commission will attend a meeting of the Criminal Law Committee in December.

The Chair asked the meeting attendees to stand for a moment of silence in memory of former Sentencing Commission member, Judge A. David Mazzone. Judge Mazzone passed away on October 25, 2004. Vice Chair Steer moved and Vice Chair Sessions seconded a motion to adopt a resolution recognizing Judge Mazzone’s many contributions to the Commission and expressing the Commission’s condolences to the family.

Vice Chair Steer shared his memories of Judge Mazzone, recounting how, early in the Commission’s history, the judge lead the Commission’s efforts in producing a report for Congress on mandatory minimums. Commissioner Steer felt that this report established the Commission’s reputation to conduct independent and highly regarded research. Soon after, Judge Mazzone suggested and oversaw the Commission’s first symposium. This symposium, focusing on drugs and violence in America, was a highly regarded endeavor. Speakers included Chief Justice Rehnquist and Senator Edward Kennedy and statements made during the symposium are still quoted today. Vice Chair Steer concluded that Judge Mazzone was a visionary. He was able to fine-tune guideline language with the best writers, but he could also see the big picture. He was a loyal member of the Commission and served the Commission well.

Vice Chair Sessions echoed Commissioner Steer’s sentiments, adding he also knew of Judge Mazzone’s qualities as a judge who would be called upon when an especially difficult case was at the bar. Judge Mazzone liked bringing contentious parties together through mediation and was regarded as something of a magician in such cases. As a visiting judge, Commissioner Sessions saw personally Judge Mazzone’s ability to act as a bridge between others, whether the parties were individuals or organizations. Commissioner Sessions noted how, during a difficult time between the Sentencing Commission and the Criminal Law Committee, Judge Mazzone acted as a bridge between the two. Finally, Judge Mazzone was very personable with a great sense of humor and was very devoted to his family.

Commissioner Reilly agreed with his fellow Commissioners appraisal of Judge Mazzone’s professional abilities. In addition, Commissioner Reilly recalled that the judge was a true gentleman, always willing to listen to another person’s opinion, even if it differed from his own.

Vice Chair Steer also called attention to the fact that Judge Mazzone was the one who oversaw the efforts to clean up Boston Harbor. This effort called on Judge Mazzone’s aforementioned skill of bringing parties together to solve difficult problems. Vice Chair Steer believed that the cleanup was one of the largest projects of its kind and again underscored Judge Mazzone’s ability to see the big picture and use it to help the community.

The resolution recognizing Judge A. David Mazzone’s service to the Sentencing Commission and expressing the Commission’s support to his family was passed by a unanimous vote.

The Chair opened the floor to any new business. Commissioner Castillo expressed his appreciation for Chair Hinojosa’s leadership of the Commission at this difficult time in the Commission’s history. He especially appreciated the Chair’s efforts in getting the 15-year report completed and likened it to getting the football across the goal line from the red-zone.

Hearing no more new business, the Chair adjourned the meeting at 10:00 a.m.