US v. Martinez-Flores, No. 04-2681. In this case, the court rejects a non-delegation argument to the fast-track guilty plea procedure. Although it goes against my better judgment, I will let you continue reading my interpretation of this case, if you promise not to say that I am the kind of person who “interprets” rather than “makes” the law. Click here to make that promise. (Also, he doesn’t get a Booker remand, nor a departure for under U.S.S.G. § 5K2.0 (permitting departure for mitigating circumstances not taken into account in the Guidelines – i.e. his home was destroyed.
most of you know, in some, but not all, districts, criminal defendants (in this
case, illegal entrants) can get better sentenced by pleading guilty early. In USA v.
Melendez-Torres, 04-1914 (see our coverage here and SL&P's here) the First found no violation of equal protection
because illegal entrants in
To begin, the court summarizes the history of fast-track sentencing.
Faced with a burgeoning load of illegal re-entry and other immigration cases, federal prosecutors in
Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California adopted policies designed to speed case processing… In the typical fast-track system, defendants who agreed to plead guilty at an early stage, and to waive their rights to file motions and to appeal, were rewarded with shorter sentences… either via charge-bargaining or promises of a recommendation for departure at sentencing.
In 2003, Congress enacted the PROTECT ACT allows directs the USSC to
promulgate . . . a policy statement authorizing a downward departure of not more than 4 levels if the Government files a motion for such departure pursuant to an early disposition program authorized by the Attorney General and the United States Attorney.
The court explains what the executive did…
on September 22, 2003, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a memorandum (the "Ashcroft Memorandum") explaining the circumstances under which he would "authorize" a fast-track program. The memorandum stated, inter alia, that fast-track programs would receive the Attorney General's authorization where "the district confronts an exceptionally large number of a specific class of offenses within the district" or where "the district confronts some other exceptional local circumstance with respect to a specific class of cases that justifies expedited disposition."
The defendant argues that the words “exceptionally large number” put too much discretion in the hands of the executive. After explaining some rather platitudinous non-delegation “principles,” the court concludes that the wording of the provision
The fact that the new sentencing policy contains a condition that depends for its fulfillment on actions of the Attorney General does not mean Congress has delegated either Legislative or Judicial Branch power to the Attorney General…. Under the terms of the PROTECT Act provision, in fact, the Attorney General was not obligated to do anything at all; he could have taken absolutely no action with regard to fast-track programs, leaving their existence and their configuration to the continued discretion of individual United States Attorneys.
Therefore, this isn’t a non-delegation problem at all: what happened here “sprung from Congress' control over sentencing, not over federal prosecutors, and prosecutors still would have been free to achieve the same outcomes via the bargaining process” because if the Attorney General had never authorized such a program, it would have only offended Congress’ control over sentencing: not prosecution.
And, they say that there is some intelligible principle because “Any authority delegated here "is no broader than the authority [prosecutors] routinely exercise in enforcing the criminal laws."
Finally, the court rejects the argument that there would have been disparities between people charged in border states and himself because he seems to have abandoned his 18 U.S.C. § 3553(b) (mitigating circumstances) argument, and replaced it with a Booker argument without showing prejudice.