Kristina Walter


This Note examines the inherent conflict among the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, judicial discretion, and a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury. Part two of this Note will provide a historical overview of the Guidelines. Part three will discuss the application of the Guidelines and the role of juries and judges at sentencing hearings. Part four will highlight criticisms relating to how the Guidelines often usurp power from juries and judges. Part five will examine the milestone cases of Blakely v. Washington, United States v. Booker, and United States v. Fanfan (hereinafter "Booker" refers to the combined cases of defendants Booker and Fanfan). These cases illustrate the constitutional problem created by mandatory determinate sentencing schemes. Although the Guidelines currently function in an advisory capacity, it remains unknown what the future holds for determinate sentencing in the federal system. Part six of this Note will consider reform proposals Congress may adopt to remedy the Sixth Amendment violation caused by application of mandatory Guidelines. This section evaluates the Bowman proposal, the Kansas System, and advisory Guidelines. Congress should resist the temptation to respond immediately to Booker. Instead, Congress should permit the advisory Guidelines to remain in place. Only advisory Guidelines will provide the time needed to collect post-Booker sentencing data that will reveal the strengths and weaknesses of our current system, especially when compared to our previous system. This data will enable Congress to develop a viable sentencing scheme that embraces the role of the jury while also allowing for greater judicial discretion, which in turn will advance individualized justice. Finally, part seven urges Congress not to race towards legislative amendments. Congress must deliberate to arrive at forward-thinking sentencing reform addressing not only constitutional issues, but policy concerns as well.