Minutes from January 27, 2005

Minutes of the January 27, 2005
United States Sentencing Commission
Public Meeting Minutes

Chair Hinojosa called the meeting to order at 10:35 a.m. in the Commissioner’s Conference Room.

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

Chair Hinojosa opened the meeting by addressing the Supreme Court’s recent decision in U.S. v. Booker, which severed and excised two provisions of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, 18 U.S.C. §§ 3553(b)(1) and 3742(e). Chair Hinojosa noted that the opinion makes clear that the remainder of the Sentencing Reform Act satisfies the Court’s constitutional requirements. He further noted that the opinion reaffirms the Sentencing Commission’s important role in the federal criminal justice system and quoted that portion of the decision stating, ". . . the Sentencing Commission remains in place, writing Guidelines, collecting information about actual district court sentencing decisions, undertaking research, and revising the Guidelines accordingly."

Chair Hinojosa stated that the Commission is an independent, bipartisan, expert body housed in the judicial branch and comprised of federal judges and individuals with varying experiences in the criminal justice system. As such, it is uniquely positioned to assist the three branches of government in assuring the continuing security of the public while providing fair and just penalties.

Chair Hinojosa advised that, consistent with fulfilling its many statutory duties and in furtherance of its ongoing mission, the Commission intends to, among other things, do the following: conduct hearings to gauge the impact of the decision and build a record of informed discussion. Hearings will begin on February 15 and 16 in Washington, D.C. The Commission will also continue to act as a clearinghouse of timely information and data on sentencing based upon court documentation statutorily required to be submitted to the Commission. The Commission will continue to monitor case law at both the district and appellate court levels. And, since the opinion clearly states that the district courts must consult the guidelines and take them into account while sentencing, the Commission will continue to train judges, probation officers, prosecutors, and defense attorneys on the federal sentencing guidelines and the Sentencing Reform Act.

Chair Hinojosa stated that the Commission, as always, stands ready to work with the federal judiciary, the Congress, and the executive branch to continue to carry out the goals of sentencing reform and, as the opinion itself says, to "provide certainty and fairness in meeting the purposes of sentencing, [while] avoiding unwarranted sentencing disparities . . . [and] maintaining sufficient flexibility to permit individualized sentences when warranted."

Chair Hinojosa called on Staff Director Tim McGrath to give his report. Mr. McGrath confirmed the February 15 and 16th public hearings in Washington, D.C. He announced that the Commission will be conducting training sessions in the upcoming weeks, which will include the Chapter 8 Organizational Guidelines. He reported that the staff will continue its research on the ongoing recidivist study. He stated that the Commission staff will continue to monitor and review district court and circuit court decisions and work with the Criminal Law Committee staff to continue its focus on capturing the new line of cases citing Booker.

Chair Hinojosa asked if there were any changes, additions or corrections to be made to the minutes of the last meeting and hearing none, sought a motion to approve the minutes. Commissioner Horowitz moved that the November 17, 2004 minutes be approved and Commissioner Steer seconded the motion. The November 17, 2004 minutes were approved by affirmative vote of six commissioners, with Commissioner Howell abstaining from the vote because she was not a member of the Commission at the time of the November meeting.

Chair Hinojosa then opened the floor to Dr. Linda Maxfield to provide an update on the recidivism report and to briefly explain the latest portion of the report soon to be released.
Dr. Maxfield provided a review of the recidivism project design, a listing of the publications that have been released, a preview of the new publication that will soon be released, and a description of future steps in the project. Dr. Maxfield explained that the recidivism project used the Commission’s empirical data from fiscal year 1992 in order to provide adequate subsequent time both for offender completion of and release from confinement, and for at-risk offender presence in the community. The Commission’s website currently contains the first two recidivism project reports. The first examines the guideline Criminal History Category as a predictor of recidivism, documenting a high level of risk prediction. The second report analyzes the low recidivism rates among offenders who have the least levels of prior criminal behavior. The forthcoming third recidivism report compares that guideline’s Criminal History Category and the Parole Commission’s Salient Factor Score. Dr. Maxfield briefly summarized the similarities and differences between these two recidivism prediction models and stated that the forthcoming report contains further extensive analyses.

Chair Hinojosa then asked if there were any questions from the Commissioners and whether there was any further business. The Chair noted the attendance of a number of Federal Defenders in the room and welcomed their presence.

There being no further business, the Chair sought a motion to adjourn the meeting. Commissioner Sessions made a motion to adjourn, which was seconded by Commissioner Howell. The motion passed unanimously.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:55 a.m.