Holder Loosens Justice Department Prosecution Guidelines


Attorney General Eric Holder has loosened guidelines issued by two of his Republican predecessors on how Justice Department prosecutors should make basic charging, plea bargaining, and sentencing decisions. Ohio State University law Prof. Doug Berman says that instead of a general policy that federal prosecutors “must” charge and pursue the most serious offense and must advocate sentences within advisory federal sentencing guidelines, Holder says prosecutors “ordinarily should” charge and pursue the most serious offense and “should generally” continue to advocate a within-guideline sentence.

One criminal defense lawyer says the Holder memo, issued last week, “appears to substantially modify, if not repudiate” previous guidance issued by former Attorney General John Ashcroft and amended by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey.

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