The Guardian is on the cutting edge of the hot topic recently addressed in a study by the U.S. Sentencing Commission which found that the length of a defendant’s sentence could swing widely nationwide and even within the same city depending upon the judge hearing the case in federal court. Philadelphia was the city with the largest discrepancy, i.e. 63%, between sentences among federal judges. The growing discrepancy follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in U.S. v. Booker, which struck down laws that mandated federal district judges to impose sentences within a range of preset guidelines.
NiaLena Caravasos, a federal criminal defense and white collar crime lawyer who argues on behalf of defendants in federal court in Philadelphia, was interviewed by The Guardian reporter, Jamiles Lartey regarding her thoughts on the discretion that federal judges have regarding sentencings and was quoted as follows: “I think their discretion is good and important and useful because when judges are pigeonholed that takes their power and humanity away.” NiaLena further shared that “I’m definitely a proponent of a judge having as much discretion as possible … I’d rather take my chances with a difficult judge and figure out how to reach them.” Indeed, NiaLena stressed that “judges are not robots” and that “I have always found that it is most important to really understand where a judge is coming from and the things that she/he places great importance on.”