Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy On Supreme Court Decision To Apply Fair Sentencing Act

BACKGROUND:  The Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision today that the Fair Sentencing Act’s new, lower mandatory minimum provisions for offenses involving crack cocaine apply to sentences imposed after passage of the legislation even for offenses that occurred before passage of the legislation. Justice Breyer, writing for the majority and joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, gave deference to the clear congressional intent to avoid further unfair disparities. Senator Leahy worked with Senator Durbin and others to pass the Fair Sentencing Act and consistently joined with Senator Durbin in calling for the United States Sentencing Commission to apply the legislation in cases covered by today’s decision.

“I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision today to give effect to changes in Federal sentencing law under the Fair Sentencing Act, which Congress passed in 2010.  That historic legislation took important steps to reduce the disparity between sentences for crack cocaine offenses and those for powder cocaine offenses – a disparity that has disproportionately affected African Americans.  Today’s decision that those sentenced after the law was passed are to be sentenced under its fairer provisions furthers the cause of justice.  It will also save the federal government money and resources in a time of budget crisis.  I was glad that Congress could come together across party lines to pass that historic legislation, and I am glad that the Supreme Court today deferred to Congress’s intent that all defendants be treated fairly and proportionately.”

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