Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Libby Pardon

In spite of all the complaining on the Left, Bush is now on record as stating that the sentencing guidelines can be excessive. This is significant because his administration has strongly opposed any efforts to weaken the guidelines authority and (Clinton also) has argued that in fact, the guidelines are virtually always correct and should seldom be departed from.

The truth is, that there is very little about Scooter Libby's case that differs from other run of the mill white collar cases under the federal system. Unlike what Bush claimed, such defendants virtually never have a criminal record and virtually never received jail time before the imposition of the sentencing guidelines. Bush has now publicly stated that the guidelines can result in excessive sentences and I expect to see many defendants and their lawyers using Bush's language in future briefs. I also think that Courts of Appeal are likely to take Bush at his word and will begin to grant many more departures for defendants in general, given their often excessive nature.

In summary, what Bush did is great for defendants and their lawyers. Once again, thinking that he is smarter than everyone else, Bush made his decision essentially without consultation and has come up with a decision that is a nightmare for the standard Republican argument on crime and something that will be a nightmare for prosecutors to deal with. Bush has come out and made all the arguments against the federal criminal justice system that many liberals and libertarians have been trying to make for years.

For those who are upset, look past Libby and be glad that many future defendants are likely to benefit from this.

So, those of us who believe the system is unfair should recognize that Bush has done a potential favor for all current and future defendants.

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