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July 19, 2004 - The Wall Street Journal (US)

Law Professor's Web Log Is Jurists' Must-Read

By Laurie P. Cohen, Staff Reporter

For the nation's federal judges and the defense lawyers and convicts who come before them, June 24 was a momentous day. For Douglas Berman, a 35-year-old law professor at Ohio State University in Columbus, the day marked the beginning of his Warholian moments of fame.

On that date, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down tough sentencing guidelines used in Washington state. The high court said any factor increasing a criminal sentence must be admitted by the defendant in a plea deal or proved to a jury. Since then, Mr. Berman has become the chronicler of the sweeping effect of the Blakely v. Washington ruling on the nation's courts.

As the creator of a Web log, or blog, called Sentencing Law and Policy (, Mr. Berman has established himself as the go-to guy for all things Blakely for federal and state judges, defense lawyers, prosecutors and prisoners' relatives. Although the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling technically affects only one state's court system, its greatest impact so far has been on federal sentencing guidelines, whose constitutionality has been called into question in dozens of court rulings nationwide, almost all of them posted on Mr. Berman's blog.

(Remainder snipped at the request of The Wall Street Journal)

Mr. Berman has competition, principally from Blakely Blog (, which was founded by Jason Hernandez, a 27-year-old law student at Columbia University in New York who is a summer associate at a Washington law firm. There also is SCOTUSblog, run by Washington law firm Goldstein & Howe that posts news articles and analysis of Supreme Court rulings on the firm's Web site. Mr. Erpenbeck says he reads them all. "No other site even comes close," he says of Mr. Berman's blog.

Still, Mr. Berman may be forced to yield ground to competitors next month, when he is scheduled to take a long-planned vacation to Myrtle Beach, S.C. Like it or not, he will have to leave his work behind. The reason: "There's no Internet wiring in that beach house," says his wife, Christine Berman.

Write to Laurie P. Cohen at

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