Sentencing Commission Nominees Put Forth by Biden
President Biden put forth seven lawyers as sentencing commission nominees. These positions on the United States Sentencing Commission would end the inability to amend the guidelines.
What is the United States Sentencing Commission?
We have covered the United States Sentencing Commission at great length over the past few years. You can go here to learn more about the commission and what they do.
The Problem: Not Enough Commissioners
Commissioners serve limited terms that cannot be renewed. Once a commissioner’s term is over they “rotate off” the commission. Sentencing commission members must be nominated by the President and approved by congress. No nominees have been submitted by Presidents in recent years. This has caused all but one voting member to have “rotated off” the commission. This also means that no substantive changes to the guidelines have happened.
As we have previously indicated, in 2018 the FIRST STEP Act was signed into law, causing changes to the compassionate release statute, specifically regarding compassionate release because of “extraordinary and compelling circumstances.” However, the guidelines and commentary were not adjusted to define what “extraordinary and compelling circumstances” meant. This created waves of litigation as inmates filed motions for compassionate release to be released from prison during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also has created circuit splits regarding what was an extraordinary and compelling circumstance. See United States v. Bryant, No. 19-14267 (11th Cir. 2021), United States vs. McKinnie, 24 F.4th 583 (2022).
The situation is now so dire that the last remaining member of the commission, Senior United States District Judge Charles Breyer publicly asked Biden to appoint new commissioners.
Biden Selects Nominees
“The White House is nominating seven lawyers for posts on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a bipartisan panel that helps set policies for punishing people convicted of federal crimes.
The panel has lacked enough members to do important work since 2019, and criminal justice advocates had pushed the Biden administration to act for more than a year.”
Judge Carlton W. Reeves (S.D. Miss)
Laura Mate (Former Public Defender and Director of Sentencing Resource Counsel, a Public Defender Project)
Claire McCusker Murray (Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General of the United States Department of Justice from 2019 to 2021)
Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo (3rd Circuit)
Judge Claria Horn Boom (ED KY and WD KY)
Judge John Gleeson (E.D. NY, Retired)
Candice C. Wong (previous ex-officio member of the commission)
As these nominees advance through the process we will let you know.