Lone Member of U.S. Sentencing Commission Urges Biden Administration to Nominate New Members

The Federal Docket

November 12, 2021

As reported by Reuters, Senior U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, the only remaining member on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, is urging the Biden Administration to nominate additional members to fill the seven-member panel. Judge Breyer noted that having a full panel is especially necessary given the First Step Act of 2018 and the need to update the Commission’s policy statements and Guidelines to reflect the First Step Act’s major changes.

The Commission has not had a quorum since January 2019, and as such, the Commission has not been able to update or modify the Guidelines or its policy statements. This has led to courts having to interpret the First Step Act in the first instance, leading to a split among circuits regarding important issues like a court’s discretion to grant compassionate release or whether defendants can seek sentence reductions based on non-retroactive changes under the First Step Act. Predictably, that has led to disparity and a lack of uniformity among courts, leaving inmates subject to differing standards depending on their district of conviction.

Judge Breyer’s term technically expired on October 31, but he can stay on the Commission for up to a year unless a replacement is confirmed.

The U.S. Judicial Conference recommended six nominees back in April 2021, but the Biden Administration has yet to nominate anyone.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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