The Price of Freedom

washingtonpost.com: Supreme Court Says Federal Sentencing Guidelines Not Mandatory:

“The Supreme Court today declared unconstitutional a portion of the nation’s federal sentencing law and said that federal judges are no longer obligated to follow the controversial system of sentencing guidelines established by Congress in 1984.

The long-awaited decision, one of the most significant rulings in a criminal case in years, effectively converted the guidelines from mandatory status to advisory status, meaning that judges must consider them rather than necessarily follow them.

The greatest uncertainty today was the extent to which the ruling will permit appeals by individuals already sentenced under the guidelines.

The central problem with the guidelines, the court said in its 5-4 decision, is that they allow convicted criminals to have their sentences increased on the basis of facts that are unproven before a jury in court.”

Some will complain about judges who make law as being out of control, “activist” judges who pervert laws. However, few seem to grumble when legislatures restrict the ability of judges to do their job, that is, to judge. It seems they might prefer to weaken that our government’s system of checks and balances to attain ends they find suitable. However, these folks might want to re-examine their thinking.

Without “activist” judges, there’d be no Brown vs. Board of Education, for example. They stand between the tyranny of the majority and the freedom of the minority. (I mean that both ways!) And if that means a felon gets his/her sentence reduced, well that’s we must be willing to pay that price. Freedom is seldom free.

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