This Note seeks to provoke a conversation about the rise in power of federal prosecutors at the expense of district court judges, focusing on the controlled-substances context. While referencing Robert Cover’s portrayal of the justice system as a “pyramid of violence,” this Note shows how the federal mandatory-minimum sentencing laws and the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s Sentencing Guidelines brought about this change. These sentencing schemes have anchored what prosecutors and judges deem an appropriate sentence. Prosecutors are thinking about sentences while deciding what charges to bring. After a discussion about sentencing legislation and current sentencing procedures, this Note identifies a need for reform in the federal criminal justice system. The elimination of mandatory sentencing laws, the normalization of departure from the Guidelines, and the creation of the executive prosecutor role are reforms identified in this Note.
Who Now Sits atop the Pyramid of Violence?,
U.C. Irvine L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.uci.edu/ucilr/vol11/iss5/11