Richard Kopf, a federal trial judge in Nebraska, is the latest jurist to take exception to the Supreme Court’s sometimes confusing rulings on sentencing. Writing in the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Kopf offers a David Letterman-style top 10 list of things he has learned from the high court’s handling of sentencing cases. Conclusion number 10: “Following the Court's approach, always put off to tomorrow what you can do today.” Number 9: “You don't need experience in actually sentencing people in order to totally screw up the law of sentencing. It is telling and painfully obvious that not a single Justice ever had to look a federal defendant in the eye while not knowing what law to apply.”
Number 6: “Never impose a sentence that is too harsh or too lenient. To quote Baby Bear, make it ‘just right’ or, perhaps more importantly, to satisfy Justice Breyer, make sure it is just ‘reasonable.’ ” Number 2: “Sentencing judges can be divided into two groups-those who are damn sure they're right and those (like me) who have no clue.” The journal’s Web site includes commentary from other federal judges on the Supreme Court’s sentencing jurisprudence.