January 23, 2007 8:58AM

Supreme Court Sentencing Ruling

As usual, NYT Supreme Court reporter, Linda Greenhouse, has a good report about yesterday’s sentencing decision from the Supreme Court. 


The Supreme Court invalidated California’s criminal sentencing law on Monday, ruling that the 30‐​year‐​old statute gave judges authority that the Constitution places with juries.

The 6‐​to‐​3 decision will require the California courts to reconsider thousands of sentences as the Legislature contemplates its options for amending the statute to meet the justices’ objections.

While no other state is directly affected, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s forcefully worded majority opinion demonstrated that the Roberts court is committed to carrying out the full implications of the revolution in criminal sentencing that the court began seven years ago in Apprendi v. New Jersey.

In fact, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the majority, the court planted its stake more firmly than ever in what criminal law scholars and practitioners have taken to referring to as Apprendi‐​land.

Round‐​up of coverage here.

Ruling here.

I have argued that this legal trend is a positive development [.pdf] and the ruling will indeed impact the sentences of thousands of prisoners in California. Still, some of the “revolutionary” rhetoric is overblown. For more Cato work on sentencing, go here.