Putting the Word "Judge" Back in the Sentence

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After eighteen years of being bound by federal sentencing guidelines, judges now have their gavels back. Sort of.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled that sentencing guidelines for federal cases should no longer be considered mandatory. Instead, judges are being asked to think of them as advisory.

It means that judges will once again be able to take into account circumstances that the guidelines demanded be ignored. The ruling was met by cheers from many on the bench who feel it will put judicial discretion back in the courtroom and bring some humanity back into sentencing. But it also opens many questions about the status of thousands of federal prisoners who were sentenced under the old system, and questions about how Congress will react to this rebalancing of the scales.


Judge Nancy Gertner, Federal Judge at the U.S. District Court in Boston, MA

Kate Stith, former federal prosecutor in New York City, currently Professor of Law at Yale University, author of “Fear of Judging: Sentencing Guidelines in the Federal Courts”

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.