Volume 88, Number 3

June 2013

Indeterminate Sentencing Returns: The Invention of Supervised Release

Fiona Doherty

The determinacy revolution in federal sentencing, which culminated in the passage of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, has since been upended by a little-noticed phenomenon: the evolution of federal supervised release. A “determinate” sentencing regime requires that prison terms be of fixed and absolute duration at the time of sentencing. Because of the manner in which supervised release now operates, however, contemporary federal prison terms are neither fixed nor absolute. Instead, the court has discretion to adjust the length of a prison term after sentencing based on its evaluation of the post-judgment progress of the offender. This power to amend the duration of the penalty is the classic marker of the “indeterminate” sentence.

In this Article, I show how federal supervised release has dismantled the ambitions of the determinacy movement and made federal prison terms structurally indeterminate in length. I conclude that the widespread use of supervised release has created a muddled and unprincipled form of indeterminate sentencing: one that flouts the insights and vision of the nineteenth-century indeterminacy movement as well as the twentieth-century determinacy movement. Having dislocated once-celebrated theories of sentencing, federal supervised release now controls the lives of more than 100,000 people without offering any alternative theoretical basis for doing so. This Article draws on the lessons of a 200 year history to expose the current nature of supervised release and to envision a more coherent role for its future.

Deference to Congressional Fact-Finding in Rights-Enforcing and Rights-Limiting Legislation

William D. Araiza

This Article examines the difficult question of the deference congressional fact-findings merit when they support legislation expanding or limiting individual rights. The deference question is crucial to judicial review of such legislation, yet the Supreme Court has offered little by way of a principled answer: platitudes about Congress’s expertise and co-equal status when it wishes to defer to such findings, and bromides about the Court’s superiority in constitutional interpretation when it does not. Scholars have described this important question as “radically under-theorized.” Any stable and useful theory addressing Congress’s ability to participate in the process of constitutional construction requires a better answer to the deference question than those which have been thus far offered. This Article proposes the outlines of such an answer.

This Article begins in Part I by identifying the three axes that should govern the deference question. Based on the insights gleaned from this analysis, Part II identifies six principles guiding the deference inquiry and applies them to congressional deference claims in several contexts: legislation enforcing the Equal Protection Clause, the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, a “human life” statute of the sort that has been proposed in the past, and the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance requirements. This Article concludes with a call for further research on this troublesome yet crucial question, which has so far generated only incomplete, unsatisfying answers.


Madison Lecture: Aliens and the Constitution

The Honorable Karen Nelson Moore

Beginning with this nation’s founding and continuing today, courts and political leaders have grappled with difficult questions as to the proper treatment of aliens— those individuals either living here or interacting with the government, but not bearing the title of “U.S. citizen.” In the annual James Madison Lecture, Judge Karen Nelson Moore explores the protections afforded to aliens by our Constitution, tracing those protections and their limitations across the many disparate legal contexts in which questions regarding aliens’ constitutional rights arise. Although the extent to which aliens possess constitutional rights varies with the closeness of their ties to this country, she explains that this single variable cannot account for the many nuances and tensions in federal jurisprudence relating to aliens’ constitutional rights. Closeness, after all, can be measured across multiple dimensions: immigration status, physical proximity to the United States (or to its borders), lawfulness of presence, and allegiance to the country.

Judge Moore first tackles the complicated meaning of alienage, discussing its conceptual definition separately with respect to the text of the Constitution, immigration law, and national security. She then considers the extent to which the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment limits the government’s ability to draw distinctions between different classes of aliens. Possible differential treatment among classes of aliens presents complex constitutional questions that remain unresolved, particularly as those questions relate to the treatment of aliens unlawfully present in this country. The rights of this group are the most in flux: These aliens’ unauthorized presence in the country, combined with their close ties to the political community, makes them difficult to fit into existing legal categories.

The criminal procedure rights of aliens under the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments are also considered, followed by a discussion of aliens’ due process rights with respect to civil litigation, immigration proceedings, and alien-enemy detention. Judge Moore highlights those areas at the outer reaches of current doctrine—the extraterritorial application of constitutional protections and the extent of executive power to combat terrorism. She articulates themes present in constitutional jurisprudence as it relates to aliens, providing a broad-lens view of this vast and complicated area of law.