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July 22, 2004 - The Wall Street Journal (US)

Senators Press Court to Resolve Sentencing Rift

By Gary Fields And Laurie P. Cohen

WASHINGTON - Members of the Senate passed by unanimous consent a resolution asking the Supreme Court to resolve questions over the constitutionality of the federal sentencing guidelines. The House is expected to consider the measure this week.

The bipartisan resolution, rare at a time when political acrimony is running high, shows how critical the subject is considered to be. Its passage means that all three branches of government -- legislative, judicial and executive -- have requested expedited action by the Supreme Court to provide clarity to its ruling last month.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against state guidelines in the case Blakely v. Washington. That decision said that any factor increasing a criminal sentence must be admitted by the defendant in a plea deal or proved to a jury effectively barring a judge from using information in increasing a defendant's sentence that wasn't heard or decided by the jury. The ruling was related to guidelines used in Washington state, but the ramifications of the ruling have been most acutely felt in the federal system.

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

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