The Supreme Court’s work in Concepcion v. US, No. 20-1650 (S. Ct. June 27, 2022) (available here), is an important sentencing precedent that is sure to be overshadowed by this Term’s higher profile cases. But I have been pleased to see a couple new notable commentaries on Concepcion. Here are links and excerpts from two pieces worth reading in full:
From CNN by Van Jones and Nisha Anand, “A rare Supreme Court ruling this term where conservative and liberals joined forces“
The Supreme Court’s ruling in Concepcion could mean reduced sentences for thousands of people. It also means that the Court just made it easier to reward those who take steps to better themselves. And allowing judges to take new information into account will help ensure that rehabilitation becomes the main point of our criminal justice system.
Helping people transform their lives reduces crime. It keeps us all much safer than simply locking people behind bars with no hope for the future. If members of a deeply divided Supreme Court can recognize this, then surely the rest of us can as well.
From Law360 by Mark Osler, “Justices’ Resentencing Ruling Boosts Judicial Discretion“
Is Concepcion good for criminal defendants? Well, it doubtlessly will be good for some of them — those who are in front of judges who are inclined to reduce a sentence based on rehabilitation or new law. However, if they are in front of a judge who cares mostly about the original facts and finality, the ruling probably won’t be good for those defendants.
That dynamic will not only create disparities based on judge, but will enhance existing disparities. After all, the judge who was likely to give a longer sentence at the front end is also most likely to deny a break down the road, while the judge who gave a lighter sentence at the initial hearing is probably more amenable to reducing a sentence at the second-chance hearing….
In the broadest strokes, Concepcion weighed in favor of more recognition of human dignity in the criminal justice system by allowing a fuller view of a defendant. While this decision, in isolation, may bring mixed results, that trend is a good one.
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