News Release

U.S. Sentencing Commission
One Columbus Circle NE
Washington, DC 20002-8002

For Immediate Release:
Thursday, January 29, 2004

Contact: Michael Courlander
Public Affairs Officer
(202) 502-4597

Transfer of Duties Expected to Go Smoothly

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 29, 2004) — U.S. Circuit Judge Diana E. Murphy has resigned her post as chair of the United States Sentencing Commission effective January 31, 2004. Said Judge Murphy in her December 19 resignation letter to the President, "For over four years I have been burning the candle at both ends in order to carry out these responsibilities while also maintaining a caseload as an active judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. While my colleagues on the court have been wonderfully supportive of my commission service, our court has recently experienced a turnover in the majority of its judgeships. At this point I feel the need to do more to help keep the court’s work current, and I cannot accomplish this without leaving the Commission."

Nominated by President Clinton, Judge Murphy was confirmed as chair by the Senate on November 10, 1999, and took office five days later. Prior to the appointment of Judge Murphy and a full new slate of commissioners, the Sentencing Commission had been without members for more than a year. The backlog of work awaiting the new panel was significant, but the Commission moved quickly to respond to congressionally mandated directives and new laws requiring the Commission’s study. A recipient of the prestigious Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award in 2001, Judge Murphy spearheaded several notable Commission undertakings. During her tenure, she oversaw (1) a comprehensive report to Congress advocating a reassessment of federal cocaine penalties, (2) a survey of Article III judges regarding the operation of the sentencing guidelines, and (3) a large-scale study of departures from the federal sentencing guidelines.

Under Judge Murphy’s leadership, the Commission also responded to congressional directives contained in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the USA PATRIOT Act of 2003, the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the PROTECT Act of 2003, and numerous other acts. She also oversaw the formation and completion of work of two advisory groups: one studying issues relating to the organizational guidelines and the other examining the impact of the federal sentencing guidelines on Native Americans in Indian Country.

The Sentencing Commission is composed of seven voting members and two non-voting ex officio members. Judge Murphy’s departure leaves the Commission with six voting members. On September 30, 2003, President Bush nominated Chief Judge William K. Sessions, III, for reappointment to the Sentencing Commission, and the nomination was approved by the full Senate on December 9, 2003. The appointments as sentencing commissioner of Judge Ruben Castillo and Commissioner Michael E. O’Neill expired October 31, 2003, but both continue to serve under the governing statute until Congress adjourns sine die, new commissioners are appointed, or they are reappointed to the Commission.

"The Commission has met and formulated its plan for handling the chair’s responsibilities on an interim basis," said Judge Murphy. "The transition should go very smoothly and we’re all confident that the very important work of the Commission will get done while we await the appointment of a new chair."

A specific delegation of the chair’s powers and duties was unanimously agreed to by the Commission following an executive session on January 7, 2004. As part of that delegation, each of the commissioners will assume a portion of the chair’s responsibilities until a new chair is confirmed or until the Commission, by vote of a majority of the members, decides that a change is necessary.

In brief, it was agreed that Judge Ruben Castillo of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and a vice chair of the Commission will call and preside over meetings of the Commission. Chief Judge William Sessions of the United States District Court for Vermont and John Steer, vice chairs of the Commission, will oversee the appropriations process and the expenditure of funds. Commissioners Michael O’Neill of George Mason University School of Law, Judge Ricardo Hinojosa of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, and Michael Horowitz of the law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, LLP, will assume liaison responsibilities with Congress, the federal judiciary, and the media, respectively. Finally, the staff director, Timothy McGrath, was delegated all authority necessary to carry out general administrative functions of the Commission.

Judge Murphy has served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit since 1994. Judge Murphy has been on the federal bench since February 1980 when she was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. From 1992-1994, she served as that court’s chief judge. Judge Murphy was a state district court judge from 1976-1980 and in trial practice with Lindquist & Vennum from 1974-1976.

Judge Murphy has served as national president of the Federal Judges Association, chair of the board of the American Judicature Society, as a member of the board of the Federal Judicial Center, and as chair of the Judges Advisory Committee to the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility. Judge Murphy received a B.A. degree from the University of Minnesota and a J.D. degree from the University of Minnesota School of Law. She attended the Johannes Gutenburg University in Mainz, Germany, on a Fulbright scholarship. She has received LL.D.s from both St. John’s University and the University of St. Thomas.

Judge Murphy is also active in a variety of nonprofit organizations. She is chair of the board of the University of Minnesota Foundation and a trustee of the University of St. Thomas. She is a member of the board of directors of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, the Bush Foundation, and the Minnesota Opera. She has served as board chair for many organizations including St. John’s University, Twin Cities Public Television, and the United Way of the Minneapolis Area.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent agency in the judicial branch of the federal government, was organized in 1985 to develop a national sentencing strategy for the federal courts. The resulting guidelines, which went into effect November 1, 1987, structure the courts’ sentencing discretion to ensure that similar offenders who commit similar offenses receive similar sentences.

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