Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Publish and Perish

United States v. Samas, No 05-5213-cr (2d Cir. March 24, 2009) (Jacobs, Wesley, Hall, CJJ) (per curiam)

This case was originally decided by summary order in December of 2009. On the government’s motion, the court withdrew the summary order and issued this published decision in its place.

The decision resolves two recurring claims with respect to mandatory minimum sentences. First, the court has long held that the federal drug statutes' disparate treatment of cocaine and crack offenses does not violate equal protection. Samas made the same equal protection claim here, arguing that the issue should be reconsidered in light of Kimbrough. The circuit disagreed: “Kimbrough bears upon the discretion of district judge to sentence within the maximum and minimum sentence ‘brackets’ [but] does not disturb our precedents rejecting challenges to the constitutionality of the mandatory sentencing scheme” for drug cases.

Samas also argued that the parsimony clause in § 3553(a) conflicted with the mandatory drug sentencing provisions. But the circuit made clear that a sentencing court must impose the mandatory minimum sentence even if it would reach a different result by considering § 3553(a). That section applies “except as otherwise specifically provided,” a clear reference to statutes that prescribe a mandatory minimum.

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