Nowhere in his job description does the AG get to decide unilaterally to reduce federal drug sentencing guidelines. Don't expect Holder to be deterred by that fact, however.
After appearing several months ago before the U.S. Sentencing Commission to endorse a proposal it was then considering to reduce penalties in a variety of federal drug crimes, Holder effectively preempted both the commission, which is an independent agency within the judicial branch, and the Congress by instructing all U.S. assistant attorneys to not object when defense lawyers ask that their convicted clients be punished under the proposed guidelines.
Until yesterday, the commission had not yet officially endorsed the proposal. Congress has until Nov. 1, 2014, to decide whether it approves of it.
Appeals Court judge not pleased
William B. Pryor is an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals judge. He's also a member of the sentencing commission. What he is not is pleased with Holder's action.
Pryor blasted Holder Thursday, saying Holder's "unprecedented instruction disrespected our statutory role, 'as an independent commission in the judicial branch,' to establish sentencing policies and practices under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, 28 U.S.C. § 991(a), (b), and the role of Congress, as the legislative branch, to decide whether to revise, modify, or disapprove our proposed amendment, id. § 994(p)."
Pryor added that "the law provides the executive [branch] no authority to establish national sentencing policies based on speculation about how we and Congress might vote on a proposed amendment."
Rule of law?
Georgetown University Professor of Law William G. Otis knows a bit about the issue, having served more than a decade as a member the AG's advisory committee on sentencing guidelines.
The issue now, according to Otis, is this:
"For those committed to the rule of law, the question now goes beyond whether reducing sentences for dealers in dangerous drugs is wise. It's whether the attorney general ... is committed to following the law as it exists, or, instead, as he wants and speculates it might become.
"One way to consider this question is to ask whether, if the attorney general ordered prosecutors to seek increased sentences that were, at the time, only preliminary, those applauding Mr. Holder's actions would be as enthusiastic as they are today."
Hmmm. The "rule of law." Wasn't there something in those dusty old history books public-school students used to have to read about "a government of laws, not men?"
On today's washingtonexaminer.com
Columnist/Philip Klein: Why Chris Christie ain't got it.
Columnist/Veronique de Rugy: Medicaid expansion is expensive for states and the poor.
Columnist/Byron York: Short on accomplishments, Hillary leans on Bubba and Barack to sell her 2016 candidacy.
Op-eds/Manhattan Moment: FDA's outdated review process leaves people dying for drugs.
Op-eds/Tyler Martinez: Supreme Court's McCutcheon decision strengthens First Amendment freedoms.
Op-eds/Rep. Mark Meadows: Cut off Hezbollah's lifeline to international financing.
Beltway Confidential/Sean Higgins: NLRB subpoenas Sen. Bob Corker in UAW's VW election appeal.
Beltway Confidential/Joel Gehrke: In nuke option payback, Senate GOP blocks Reid attempt to sneak controversial judge nominee's confirmation.
PennAve/Susan Crabtree: With Sebelius out, Obamacare reset won't be easy.
Legal Newsline/David Yates: Texas tort law reform group endorses Patrick for Lt. Gov.
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The Washington Post: Sebelius leaves after flawed Obamacare rollout.
The New York Times: Satellites show Russian forces poised on Ukraine border.
New York Daily News: New Jersey panel may appeal Christie Bridgegate document ruling.
Time Magazine: Congress wants to ban Iran's choice as its U.S. ambassador.
National Review Online: Thought Police on patrol.
The American Thinker: Why vote fraud is the Left's tool for social justice.
The American Spectator: Rock hall of fame is for losers.
The Federalist: Why Obama presidency now has to be all about race.
The Nation: Can Al Jazeera save cable news?
The Huffington Post: Rand Paul wants all pilots to be armed.
The American Prospect: Yes, being a woman makes you poorer.
Mother Jones: Religious Right fears GOP can't handle Vegas convention.
Legal Insurrection: Cornell student assembly rejects Israel divestment.
Jonathan Last Online: Ultimate Warrior RIP.
Talking Points Memo: Midterm silver lining is Dems could beat GOP on governor races.