Federal Criminal Justice Clinic Written Testimony on Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentences

September 17, 2013

Professor Alison Siegler provides this update on extremely exciting legislative advocacy undertaken by the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic:

We have submitted written testimony to Congress for the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s hearing on “Reevaluating the Effectiveness of Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentences,” which will be held this Wednesday, September 18. Professor Erica Zunkel and FCJC student James DuBray researched and wrote the bulk of the testimony (attached). We’ve been assured by Chairman Leahy’s staff that our testimony will go into the congressional record.

Our testimony supports two pending bipartisan bills that are the subject of the hearing. One of the bills, the Smarter Sentencing Act, is sponsored by both Senator Durbin and Republican Mike Lee and would reduce the mandatory minimum penalties applicable to many drug offenses, expand the “safety valve” provision slightly, and reduce disparities between crack and powder cocaine offenders by making the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive. The other bill, the Justice Safety Valve Act, is sponsored by Senator Leahy and Republican Rand Paul and would grant federal judges the discretion to sentence beneath the mandatory minimum in any case if certain factors are met. Attorney General Eric Holder recently praised these bills as “promising legislation aimed at giving federal judges more discretion in applying mandatory minimums to certain drug offenders,” and said that he believes “[s]uch legislation will ultimately save our country billions of dollars while keeping us safe.”

Our clinic is also in the process of gathering signatures from former AUSAs and federal judges in support of Senator Durbin’s bill.