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Review 1 of "Use of the federal guidelines while maneuvering to achieve 'justice': A non-participant observational study of judicial sentencing discretion in illegal reentry cases in a U.S. District Court"

Published onOct 08, 2020
Review 1 of "Use of the federal guidelines while maneuvering to achieve 'justice': A non-participant observational study of judicial sentencing discretion in illegal reentry cases in a U.S. District Court"

Vote: Publish pending minor changes


The author of this paper makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the dynamics of the federal sentencing process.  Use of courtroom observations is a novel approach.  Findings reveal the ways in which formal plea agreements and consistent recommendations from prosecution and defense structure the sentencing process and illuminate the role of judicial discretion in cases in which there is neither a formal agreement nor consistent recommendations.  Findings also show that different judges interpret criminal history in different ways, raising questions about whether offenders with the same criminal history score are “similarly situated offenders” in the minds of different judges.  In summary, the author is able to get inside the “black box” of sentencing in illegal entry cases. 

There are a couple of limitations, but they do not detract from the overall quality of the paper. These limitations include the fact that 34 of the 53 cases discussed in the paper were decided by four of the 11 judges (and 14 were decided by a single judge) and the fact that the findings of the study (which focuses on illegal reentry cases) may not be generalizable to other types of cases. 

There are a few typos and grammatical mistakes, so careful copy editing is needed.

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