Judges Condemn Sentencing Guidelines

High court, Mukasey may give them leeway
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2007 2:18 PM CDT
Retired federal judge Michael Mukasey listens as President Bush, not pictured, announces him as his nominee for attorney general, replacing Alberto Gonzales, Monday, Sept. 17, 2007, in the Rose Garden...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Judges across the country are condemning federal sentencing guidelines, 1980s-era anti-drug laws that force them to impose “irrational” sentences, the LA Times reports. “When I have to sentence a midlevel drug dealer to more time than a murderer, something is wrong,” said a judge forced to sentence a 24-year-old to 59 years for selling pot.

The laws have ballooned the federal prison population to 181,622, compared to 24,363 in 1980. Copy-cat state laws have had a similar effect. But change may be coming. Michael Mukasey, Bush’s Attorney General nominee, thinks the guidelines violate constitutional separation of powers, and the Supreme Court will hear two cases this fall that could reduce drug sentencing.