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Monday, December 10, 2007

Gall: Reasonableness Review is Deferential

In Gall v. U.S., No. 06-7949 (Dec. 10, 2007), the Supreme Court held that while the extent of the difference between a particular sentence and the recommended Guideline range is relevant, courts of appeal must review all sentences – whether inside, just outside, or significantly outside the Guidelines range – under a deferential abuse of discretion standard. The Eighth Circuit therefore erred when it reversed based only on its disagreement with Gall’s sentence. The Court specifically rejected the Eighth Circuit’s view that a variance requires "extraordinary" circumstances, and its application of a proportionality formula to determine whether a Guideline-variance is justified.
The Court noted that the district court committed no procedural error, because it adequately considered the § 3553(a) sentencing factors and adequately explained its sentence. Turning to substantive "reasonableness" review, Court found that the district court "quite reasonably attached great weight" to a number of factors in imposing a below-Guidelines sentence – Gall’s withdrawal from the conspiracy, his youthful age at the time he committed the offense, and his self-motivated rehabilitation. The Court noted that it is not for courts of appeal to decide de novo whether the justification for a variance is sufficient.