Even though the Supreme Court has start its summer break, justices may have to deal quickly with fallout from an important ruling on criminal sentencing, reports the Associated Press. The decision said judges cannot lengthen prison terms beyond the maximum spelled out in sentencing guidelines. Last week, a federal judge in Utah cited the case in declaring federal sentencing guidelines unconstitutional in a child sexual exploitation case. In Washington, D.C., the tobacco farmer who crashed his tractor into a pond on the Mall was released after a judge reduced his sentence because of the high court’s ruling.
The Justice Department is expected to appeal one of the sentencing reducions to the Supreme Court in the coming weeks. “I don’t think the Supreme Court is going to have much of a vacation from this issue,” said Lawrence Marshall, legal director of Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions. “They’re not going to have the luxury of delay.” AP says the Bush administration would use a rare procedure of bringing an appeal before judgment – bypassing the longer process of taking a case first to an appeals court. David Frederick, a sentencing expert, said that, “Given the number of sentences that get handed down every week around the country, this is a critical issue for the Supreme Court to resolve.”