Monday, April 10, 2006

"Fast Track" Departures

United States v. Alejandro Galicia-Cardenas, No. 05-3093 (March 24, 2006): This opinion consolidates two appeals. It was originally an unpublished order, but the Court has now published it at the government's request.

Mr. Galicia-Cardenas, prosecuted in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, received a below guidelines sentence for his illegal re-entry offense. Mr. Vega-Lopez, prosecuted in the Western District of Wisconsin, received a within the guidelines sentence for the same offense. In both cases the question was whether the "fast track" program operating in other districts could be the basis of a below the guidelines sentence. The Seventh Circuit answered "no" to this question. Since Congress has authorized the Attorney General to create the program, there can be no unwarranted disparity in allowing lower sentences for defendants in some districts. As might be expected, there is little analysis in this formerly unpublished opinion, other than a reference to the Court's recently published opinion in United States v. Martinez-Martinez, 2006 WL 722140 (7th Cir. March 23, 2006). Martinez held that a court was not required to go below the guidelines to equalize defendants who are sentenced in non-fast track districts. The instant case takes us to a new level in holding that a district court errs when it uses fast track to exercise discretion and sentences below the guidelines. The instant case does not acknowledge that in some districts defendants receive lower sentences because of charge bargaining. It remains to be seen what the Court will say when it confronts that issue.