Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ratio Days

United States v. Keller, No. 07-3330-cr (2d Cir. August 14, 2008) (Miner, Cabranes, CJJ, Berman, DJ)

This case provides an important clarification of the procedure that the court set out earlier this year in United States v. Regalado, 518 F.3d 143 (2d Cir. 2008). In that case, the court held that a remand was warranted on appeals of pre-Kimbrough crack sentencings where the defendant did not ask for a variance based on the 100-to-1 penalty ratio, because there would be no way for the circuit to know whether the district court would have imposed a different sentence if it knew that it had the discretion to do so.

Here, the district judge gave a two-level sentence reduction to match the anticipated amelioration of the crack sentencing guidelines, but did not specifically acknowledge its discretion to consider the crack-powder sentencing disparity as the basis for imposing a non-guideline sentence. The circuit concluded that a Regalado remand was nevertheless necessary. In crack cocaine cases, unless the record “unambiguously demonstrates that a district court was aware of the full extent of its discretion and declined to exercise it, a remand [is] appropriate.”

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