In the News

The Federal Docket

Fourth Circuit becomes Fourth US Court of Appeals to Hold Courts Have Independent Discretion to Reduce Inmates’ Sentences

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals became the fourth appellate circuit to hold that district courts reviewing an inmate’s motion for sentence reduction under 3582(c)(1)(A) have the independent discretion to determine if there are “extraordinary and compelling reasons” warranting the requested reduction. The Fourth Circuit joins the Second, Sixth, and Seventh Circuits in recognizing district courts’ broad discretion when reviewing requests for sentence reductions and compassionate release.

Sixth and Seventh Circuits Hold Courts Have Broad Discretion to Determine Inmate Eligibility for Compassionate Release

The Sixth Circuit and Seventh Circuit have joined the Second Circuit in holding that district courts considering motions for sentence reductions under 18 USC 3582(c)(1)(A) can exercise their discretion in determining whether an inmate has presented “extraordinary and compelling reasons” warranting a sentence modification.

Election Results: “What Biden’s Win Means for the Future of Criminal Justice”

The Marshall Project has published a helpful primer of President-Elect Joe Biden’s Criminal Justice Platform, which, if enacted, would be the most progressive criminal justice agenda in U.S. history. The article focuses on the areas of mandatory minimum sentences, cash bail, the death penalty, eliminating private prisons, and other areas.

Election Results: States Continuing to Roll Back the War on Drugs

Voters in Oregon voted to decriminalize hard drugs like cocaine and heroin while providing significant funding for treatment. Voters in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota passed measures reforming marijuana laws, including recreational and medical marijuana.

Feds Allege Big Increase in PPP Loan Fraud

Government officials and public data indicate there has been a dramatic increase in investigations and prosecutions of “PPP Loan Fraud,” including over 500 investigations and 73 criminal prosecutions. The Wall Street Journal reports in detail how Congress created the program to facilitate quick relief to businesses by allowing business’s to “self-certify” their need for PPP loans, and how the federal government has aggressively pursued businesses they suspect of committing PPP loan fraud by identifying certain business activities as “suspicious.”

DOJ Announces U.S. Imprisonment Rate Lowest Since 1995

The Department of Justice recently put out a press release stating that the total incarceration rate of state and federal inmates in 2019, at 419 inmates for every 100,000 U.S. residents, was the lowest the incarceration rate has been since 1995. The press release discusses the gradual increase in the incarceration rate since the 1990s and breaks down the changing trends by race and by type of crime. Given the number of inmates released during the COVID-19 pandemic, this number may continue to decrease, at least in the short term.

Criminal Justice Reform on the 2020 Ballot

The Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University has compiled a list of criminal justice ballot measures in the 2020 election, by state and by type of reform, to inform voters of what drug reform initiatives or criminal justice reforms are on the ballot in their states. The article lists, for example, Arizona as the only state where possession of any amount of marijuana is a felony and where voters can vote to legalize recreational weed after the initiative barely failed in 2016. The article also lists measures in California to allow certain felons to vote and reform cash bail. Oregon, on the other hand, will have a ballot measure giving residents the power to decriminalize possession of any kind of drug.

Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty to Violating Anti-Kickback Laws & Defrauding the U.S.

The DOJ has announced that Purdue Pharma, the pharmaceutical corporation best known for making the opioid pain killer Oxycotin, will plead guilty to three federal criminal charges relating to its role in creating to the opioid crisis. Purdue Pharma will be pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and violate the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute based on payments to healthcare providers and a cloud-based electronic health records company that Purdue worked with in relation to its distribution of opioid pain medication. The plea agreement calls for over $8 billion in fines and fees and will require the company, which previously filed for bankruptcy, to dissolve.

DOJ Charges 14,200 People with Firearms Offenses in 2020

October 13, 2020. The Department of Justice announced today that it has charged over 14,200 people with various kinds of firearms offenses in 2020, with potentially more to come.The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta announced that its office brought in at least 336 of the 14,200 firearms cases, and the charges include possession of a firearm by someone in a prohibited class (such as felon, illegal alien, or drug user), possession of a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime of drug trafficking offense (924(c)), unlawful purchase of a firearm, and false statements in connection with registering a firearm with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, such as by lying on an ATF Form.

Federal Judge Blocks DOJ’s Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement From Publishing Report

A federal judge in D.C. issued an order preventing the Trump DOJ’s Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice from continuing to work and release its final report, holding that the make up of the commission, almost entirely construed of former and current members of law enforcement and prosecutors, violated statutory obligations under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to have a “fairly balanced” membership and provide transparency.

Scroll to Top