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    This page contains Supreme Court rulings -- with summaries of the majority and minority conclusions.

11-FREEMAN on Feb 23, 2011

Decided Jun 23, 2011
The defendant entered into an agreement with the prosecution to plead guilty to crack cocaine possession. Following this plea, the sentencing guidelines federal judges must consider when they impose prison terms were retroactively revised to lower the prison time required in crimes involving cocaine base [crack cocaine], which were higher than those for powder cocaine. The law permitted defendants who were sentenced based upon the old guideline to seek the lower prison sentence if the guideline was revised downward.

HELD: Delivered by KENNEDY, joined by GINSBURG, BREYER & KAGAN

The Court must determine whether this defendant may take advantage of the lowering of the sentencing guidelines for the [crack cocaine] offense he was sentenced for. Even though this defendant was sentenced in accordance with an agreement, the Court finds that district court judges have a duty to consider the sentencing guidelines at all times, includinwg when deciding whether to accept a guilty plea that is contingent upon one of these agreements. Since the guidelines are the starting point for all sentencing decisions, even a defendant who agrees to a sentence may seek to have his sentence revised after a guidelines change.

CONCURRED: SOTOMAYOR concurs in the judgment

A sentence under one of these agreements is based upon the agreement itself, not on the judge's calculation of the guidelines. However, the agreement in this case expressly used the guidelines sentencing range to establish the term of imprisonment. When an agreement uses the guidelines, a defendant may seek reduction of his prison term based upon a guideline revision.


A sentence based upon an agreement is based upon the agreement alone, whether or not the sentencing guidelines were considered, and a defendant so sentenced should not be allowed the opportunity for a sentencing revision when the guidelines are changed.

    Participating counts on VoteMatch question 19. Question 19: Never legalize marijuana Scores: -2=Strongly oppose; -1=Oppose; 0=neutral; 1=Support; 2=Strongly support.
  • Topic: Drugs
  • Headline: Sentencing rules change allows crack sentence reductions (Score: -1)
  • Headline 2: Reduce crack sentences to follow powder-vs.-crack changes (Score: -2)
  • Headline 3: Sentences should stand despite crack-vs.-powder rule change (Score: 1)

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Democrats participating in 11-FREEMAN

Stephen Breyer j1US Democratic Appointee to Supreme Court 
Ruth Bader Ginsburg j1US Democratic Appointee to Supreme Court 
Elena Kagan j1US Democratic Appointee to Supreme Court 
Sonia Sotomayor w2cUS Democratic Appointee to Supreme Court 

Republicans participating in 11-FREEMAN

Samuel Alito j3dUS Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 
Anthony Kennedy w1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 
John Roberts w3dUS Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 
Antonin Scalia j3dUS Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 
Clarence Thomas j3dUS Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 

Independents participating in 11-FREEMAN

Total recorded by OnTheIssues:

Democrats: 4
Republicans: 5
Independents: 0

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