NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
Current Issue

Volume 89, Number 4

October 2014
Articles

Have Interjudge Sentencing Disparities Increased in an Advisory Guidelines Regime? Evidence from Booker

Crystal S. Yang

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines were promulgated in response to concerns of widespread disparities in sentencing. After almost two decades of determinate sentencing, the Guidelines were rendered advisory in United States v. Booker. How has greater judicial discretion affected interjudge disparities, or differences in sentencing outcomes that are attributable to the mere happenstance of the sentencing judge assigned? This Article utilizes new data covering almost 400,000 criminal defendants linked to sentencing judges to undertake the first national empirical analysis of interjudge disparities after Booker.

The results are striking: Interjudge sentencing disparities have doubled since the Guidelines became advisory. Some of the recent increase in disparities can be attributed to differential sentencing behavior associated with judge demographic characteristics, with Democratic and female judges being more likely to exercise their enhanced discretion after Booker. Newer judges appointed post-Booker also appear less anchored to the Guidelines than judges with experience sentencing under the mandatory Guidelines regime.

Disentangling the effects of various actors on sentencing disparities, I find that prosecutorial charging is likely a prominent source of disparities. Rather than charging mandatory minimums uniformly across eligible cases, prosecutors appear to selectively apply mandatory minimums in response to the identity of the sentencing judge, potentially through superseding indictments. Drawing on this empirical evidence, this Article suggests that recent sentencing proposals calling for a reduction in judicial discretion in order to reduce disparities may overlook the substantial contribution of prosecutors.

Rethinking Health-Based Environmental Standards

Michael A. Livermore, Richard L. Revesz

Under the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to determine the stringency of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), arguably the most important federal environmental program, without considering the costs of achieving these standards. Instead, it must rely exclusively on health-related criteria. This Article argues that health-based standards, which are one of the principal approaches to setting the stringency of environmental requirements in the United States, exhibit two serious pathologies: the stopping-point problem and the inadequacy paradox. The stopping-point problem arises because there is no coherent, defensible way for EPA to set the permissible level of pollution based on health considerations alone. Moreover, contrary to the commonly accepted view, the NAAQS have generally been set at levels that are less stringent than those that would result from the application of cost-benefit analysis, giving rise to the inadequacy paradox. We urge a reinterpretation of the Supreme Court’s important decision in Whitman v. American Trucking Associations to avoid the inadequacy paradox.

Penalty Default Licenses: A Case for Uncertainty

Kristelia A. Garcia

Research on the statutory license for certain types of copyright-protected content has revealed an unlikely symbiosis between uncertainty and efficiency. Contrary to received wisdom, which tells us that in order to increase efficiency, we must increase stability, this Article suggests that uncertainty can actually be used to increase efficiency in the marketplace. In the music industry, the battle over terrestrial performance rights—that is, the right of a copyright holder to collect royalties for plays of a sound recording on terrestrial radio—has raged for decades. In June 2012, in a deal that circumvented the statutory license for sound recordings for the first time ever, broadcasting giant Clear Channel granted an elusive terrestrial performance right to a small, independent record label named Big Machine and agreed to pay royalties where no such legal obligation exists. This result not only improves upon many of the statutory license’s inefficiencies but is also the opposite of what we would expect given both the tumultuous history surrounding the rights at issue and the respective parties’ bargaining positions. It suggests an underexplored mechanism at play: uncertainty. Using the statutory license for sound recordings and the Clear Channel–Big Machine deal to motivate the analysis, this Article argues that bounded uncertainty—such as uncertainty about the future legal status of terrestrial performance rights and uncertainty about future digital business models—converts a statutory license into a “penalty default license.” Just as penalty default rules encourage more efficient information exchange between asymmetrical parties, penalty default licenses encourage more efficient licensing among otherwise divergent parties by motivating them to circumvent an inefficient statutory license in favor of private ordering. While not without its drawbacks, which previous work identified and ameliorated, private ordering improves upon the statutory approach, resulting in greater efficiency not only for the parties involved but for society overall. Recognition of the role that uncertainty plays in converting an inefficient statutory license into a penalty default license that improves market efficiency while mitigating inequality has implications beyond the statutory licensing context. It suggests a revision in the way we view the relationship between uncertainty and efficiency. Specifically, it shows that when coupled with a penalty default, uncertainty can bring greater efficiency to the marketplace by encouraging private ordering—with its tailored terms and responsiveness to rapid legal and technological change—while mitigating concerns about inequality and gamesmanship.

Notes

The Supreme Court’s Ahistorical Reasonableness Approach to the Fourth Amendment

Nikolaus Williams

In recent years, the Supreme Court has increasingly made “reasonableness” the central inquiry of whether a search or seizure is constitutional under the Fourth Amendment. The rise of the reasonableness approach has coincided with originalist scholarship that claims this interpretation is more consistent with the Amendment’s text and history. This Note looks at Framing-era search-and-seizure practice and argues that the Court’s modern reasonableness interpretation is, in fact, ahistorical and inconsistent with Framing-era practice and the Amendment’s original understanding. Not only is there scant evidence that the legality of searches and seizures turned on their reasonableness during the Framing era, but the arguments made in favor of the Court’s modern reasonableness approach are based on flawed historical assumptions. As a result, the Court’s various applications of its reasonableness interpretation are all inconsistent with Framing-era practice and the Amendment’s original understanding.

Hearsay and Confrontation Issues Post-Crawford: The Changing Course of Terrorism Trials

Jessica K. Weigel

In 2004, the Supreme Court overhauled the established interpretation of the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment when it decided Crawford v. Washington. This Note attempts to augment the existing literature by elucidating the Crawford standard in the context of terrorism prosecutions in Article III courts. It details the shifts between Ohio v. Roberts and Crawford, analyzes subsequent federal case law, and tests the new framework on hypothetical terrorism fact patterns. This Note anticipates that for some types of evidence, such as ex parte affidavits and written summaries of testimony, the Crawford test will create significant hurdles for prosecutors in terrorism cases. A viable solution to this problem is for the government to make greater use of witness depositions abroad pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 15(c)(3).

Not So Legitimate: Why Courts Should Reject an Administrative Approach to the Routine Booking Exception

Julie A. Simeone

The routine booking exception permits police officers and agents to ask certain questions—typically biographical inquiries such as an arrestee’s name, age, and address—in the absence of the Miranda warnings. Since its introduction in Pennsylvania v. Muniz, the exception has been inconsistently defined. This Note addresses the various formulations of the routine booking exception and focuses on the increasingly utilized administrative-centric tests. It concludes that a purely administrative approach to routine booking should be rejected.

Changed Circumstances and Judicial Review

Maria Ponomarenko

The problem of changed circumstances recurs throughout constitutional law. Statutes often outlive the conditions they were meant to address. A once-reasonable law may come to impose burdens that the legislature never intended and would not now be willing to impose. This Note asks whether courts are ever permitted to step in and declare that, as a result of postenactment changed circumstances, a once-valid law can no longer be constitutionally applied. It argues that the propriety of changed circumstances review depends first on whether the applicable doctrinal test is substantive or motives-based. A substantive test is one that imposes an absolute prohibition on certain categories of legislation, or requires a particular degree of fit between legislative means and ends. A motives-based test asks only whether the enacting legislature intended to further an impermissible objective. This Note demonstrates that where the underlying test is substantive, a reviewing court must at least consider whether circumstances have sufficiently changed since the challenged law’s enactment to justify striking it down. If the test is motives-based, then the court should generally consider only whether the statute is valid based on facts as they existed when it first went into effect.

Mending Guatemala’s Tourism Industry Through Private Regulation

Christina M. Argueta

Tourism is an increasingly important source of capital in numerous developing nations, and it accounts for an inflow of nearly $1.4 billion to Guatemala each year. Yet tourism also carries with it negative side effects, principally environmental and cultural degradation. International NGOs working in Guatemala tout a preservationist brand of tourism, yet anthropologists and environmentalists have documented how the tourism industry—and the NGOs that compose it—continually fall short of preservationist goals. This Note suggests that a solution to the industry’s harms lies in private regulation, specifically in a tourism-specific code of conduct. This Note demonstrates how a code would fit within the industry’s current regulatory scheme, explains why the NGOs that dominate the industry would adhere to a code, and identifies specific provisions that should be included in a code to directly target tourism’s environmental and cultural harms.

44.1 Luftballons: The Communication Breakdown of Foreign Law in the Federal Courts

Matthew J. Ahn

Foreign law has become an increasingly important element of many cases brought before federal courts. Rule 44.1, which controls determinations of foreign law, is intended to make the process for determining foreign law as painless as possible, but like the regime that preceded it, it has become a procedural minefield for those wishing to rely on foreign law, as courts have declined to apply Rule 44.1 when it should be used, either deliberately or due to uncertainty as to its application. This is in large part due to the lack of concrete standards outlined in the rule. This Note examines the standards associated with the rule and their application in the years immediately after its promulgation and concludes that the reliant party’s burden of production with respect to foreign law should vary based on whether statutory text is provided. If a statute is available, the courts should be required to undertake a Rule 44.1 analysis, while if a statute is unavailable, the reliant party should bear the burden of producing substantial evidence of foreign law. This standard, elaborated in the text of Rule 44.1, should ensure that as many foreign law determinations as possible can be resolved on the merits.