The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that federal judges have been improperly adding time to criminals' sentences, a decision that puts in doubt longtime sentencing rules.
The court, on a 5-4 vote, said that its ruling last June that juries -- not judges -- should consider factors that can add years to defendants' prison sentences applies as well to the 17-year-old federal guideline system.
Here's the full text of the case, for people who like to figure things out for themselves. Looking at that site, you might well ask why Justice Stevens writes the opinion and a dissent. Here the actual breakdown:
Stevens, J., delivered the opinion of the Court in part, in which Scalia, Souter, Thomas, and Ginsburg, JJ., joined. Breyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court in part, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and O’Connor, Kennedy, and Ginsburg, JJ., joined. Stevens, J., filed an opinion dissenting in part, in which Souter, J., joined, and in which Scalia, J., joined except for Part III and footnote 17. Scalia, J., and Thomas, J., filed opinions dissenting in part. Breyer, J., filed an opinion dissenting in part, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and O’Connor and Kennedy, JJ., joined.
This will take some digestion! I think there's agreement about the point of law, but disagreement about exactly what the remedy is going to be. More on this later.
UPDATE: I have a feeling the law bloggers are all going to start glancing around asking, who's reading all of this? I think I'm going to pick my battles and pass this one up. It's not an area of constitutional law I teach. The horrible knot of a problem here is that the Justices who disagreed with the interpretation of the Sixth Amendment have the majority when it comes to figuring out the remedy. How did that happen? I can answer that: Justice Ginsburg! I'll let someone else explain exactly why and exactly how much of a mess we've got on our hands now.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's Instapundit glancing around and finding the Sentencing Law and Policy blog, which obviously has to do this one and can't do the hey-don't-look-at-me routine.