U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa of Texas has been nominated by President Bush to chair the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which write federal sentencing guidelines. Hinojosa replaces Judge Diana Murphy of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, who resigned. Hinojosa, a native of Rio Grande City, Tx., was appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. He is a graduate of the University of Texas and Harvard Law School.
At his confirmation hearing last year to join the commission, Hinojosa noted that he is “one of the group that gets smaller as each year goes by that actually has done sentencing both under the old system as well as under the guideline system. From 1983 to 1987, I actually sentenced individuals under the old system. And I have to say that I find the Sentencing Commission guidelines very helpful for the system. Under the old system, we would spend a lot of time … trying to figure out what I had done with a particular kind of case and a particular kind of defendant with certain characteristics that were similar to the present defendant and — the amount of drugs involved in a drug case, for example — and trying to make things work out in an equal fashion and a fair fashion. So you spend a lot of time trying to go back, trying to find other cases that you had worked on, and sometimes talking to other judges about the same kind of cases….Under the guidelines, we have a totally different system because…the commission guidelines set the procedure and the parameters that the judges are to follow. And I have to say that I find them helpful because in many ways they basically have the same factors I used to consider myself when I had to make a decision [including] the role in the offense of an individual, the involvement in the crime itself. In the drug case, for example, the amount of drugs, whether there was a firearm involved, and irrelevant conduct involved, and acceptance of responsibility. All these factors that are put into the commission guidelines which makes us think about these in every single case, and I find them to be helpful.”