Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Sentencing Guidelines Ruled Unconstitutional

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Sentencing Guidelines Ruled Unconstitutional

Article excerpt

U.S. District Judge Ralph Thompson has ruled the Federal Sentencing Guidelines unconstitutional, the second time in Oklahoma's Western Judicial District that the newly promulgated rules have been struck down, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney William Price.

Thompson ruled that the guidelines, which critics say blur the divisions of the constitution's mandate on the separation of powers, violated the rights of Magdaleno Rivas-Hernandez, an illegal alien who pleaded guilty to re-entering the country after being deported.

The guidelines have been creating consternation across the country as courts struggle to interpret whether or not the commission that created them is actually a judicial body, a legislative body or a part of the executive branch itself.

Price said a previous case presided over by U.S. District Judge Lee West, also in Oklahoma's Western Judicial District, had the same results - the guidelines were struck down - and he hoped, as many other federal attorneys, that the U.S. Supreme Court grants certiori and finally puts the matter to rest.

"The guidelines don't rise or fall on the merits of the case, but on the issues of constitutionality," Price said, adding that he thought about 50 percent of the time, the guidelines are upheld while the other 50 percent of the time they are disallowed.

In the Judicial District of Southern California alone, two cases have been decided which involved the guidelines. In one instance the California judge upheld the guidelines while another judge - in the same district - ruled the guidelines unconstitutional.

In Thompson's order issued Tuesday, the judge said the "more troublesome aspect of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 is the explicit placement of the Sentencing Commission in the judicial branch. …

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