Sentencing Commission Weighs Going 'Topless'

The U.S. Sentencing Commission held a hearing in Washington today at which it solicited proposals from Justice Department officials, law professors and judges about how to remedy the Sentencing Guidelines if, as expected, the Supreme Court invalidates at least a portion of them in the aftermath of its Blakely ruling.

Leave it to the Justice Department to come up with a scheme to lengthen, rather than shorten sentences. It's referred to as the "topless" option:

Under the change recommended by the Justice Department, and appearing to enjoy some support on the commission, minimum sentences will not change. However, judges will have flexibility to give longer sentences, up to the maximum defined by Congress. Judges could decide on a long prison sentence, without adding extra time for specific things like gun possession. The plan was devised by Indiana law professor Frank Bowman. Assistant AG Christopher Wray, in testimony before the Commission today, said:

...the change, called by some the "topless" plan, would "preserve the traditional roles of judges and juries in criminal cases" and would be easy to get through Congress.

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