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Want to read the latest Sentencing Commission report? Law prof blogger is tapped to get the news out

Posted Feb 15, 2013 8:29 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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If you want to read a report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission on the impact of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision, you will have to rely on the blogosphere.

The commission is relying on back channels—or more specifically, an Ohio State University law professor—to release its new report, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog (sub. req.) reports.

The blog explains why. As of Friday morning, the commission’s website was still “under construction.” It has been nearly three weeks since the hacker group known as Anonymous shut down the commission’s website to protest the suicide of hactivist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide as he was awaiting trial for alleged illegal downloading.

Law professor Douglas Berman tells the Law Blog he agreed to publish a report summary after a commission official asked him to publish the entire document. Berman provided links to the summary at his blog Sentencing Law and Policy, while criminal defense lawyer Mark Allenbaugh published the entire report.

The report assesses the impact of United States v. Booker, the 2005 Supreme Court decision that effectively made the guidelines advisory. The commission’s statistical analysis found that, in recent years, sentences for fraud and child pornography have increasingly diverged from the guidelines, according to a press release (PDF). For both offenses, as the average guideline minimum has increased, the average sentence has remained flat, according to the report summary (PDF).

Sentences for drug trafficking, immigration, and firearms offenses, on the other hand, closely adhere to the guidelines.

The study also found regional differences in below-range sentences, ranging from less than 10 percent in some districts to more than 40 percent in others.

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