Judicial Authority under the First Step Act What Congress Conferred through Section 404

46 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2020

Date Written: June 1, 2020

Abstract

The First Step Act of 2018 promised relief to inmates serving disproportionately long sentences for cocaine base distribution. Section 404, the focus of this article, seemed straight-forward. But in the spring and summer of 2019, district judges began reviewing § 404 cases and reaching dissonant results. Appeals followed, focused on four questions of judicial authority: (1) Who may judges resentence?; (2) May judges engage in plenary resentencing or merely sentence reduction?; (3) May judges resentence all concurrent criminal convictions or only crack cocaine convictions?; and (4) Must judges adopt the operative drug quantity from the original sentencing? Today, the law of § 404 remains incomplete in every circuit. This article reviews the legislative history, text, and legal context of § 404. It finds that Congress intended broad judicial authority in § 404 resentencings.

Keywords: criminal justice reform, sentencing, First Step Act, judicial authority

Suggested Citation

Ryan, Sarah, Judicial Authority under the First Step Act What Congress Conferred through Section 404 (June 1, 2020). Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, Vol. 52, No. 1, 2020. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3616329

Sarah Ryan (Contact Author)

Wesleyan University ( email )

Middletown, CT 06459
United States

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