- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Two commentators in your paper have attacked the federal sentencing guidelines that were declared “advisory” earlier this month by a narrowly-divided U.S. Supreme Court. In their trust of unelected, life-tenured judges to get sentences right, both miss the mark.

Philip Terzian (“Tangling sentence guidelines?” Commentary, Saturday) must be confused when he writes that “mandatory minimums, in a free society, turn our judicial system into a police state, and take problems best left to judges and courts and put them exclusively in the politicians’ hands.”

Members of Congress must periodically face the voters; federal judges serve for life. In a free society, we the people, through our elected representatives, should decide criminal penalties, not unelected judges.

What’s more, both he and Cato Institute senior fellow Alan Reynolds (“Let judges use judgment,” Commentary, Sunday) pooh-pooh the serious drop in crime rates that followed the new, tougher sentences first pushed by the Reagan Justice Department. Law-abiding Americans do not want to return to high-crime days.

Finally, it is odd to see a Cato fellow urging that we give more power to federal judges. On New Year’s Eve in your paper, Mr. Reynolds’ Cato colleague Roger Pilon was quoted calling for term limits for federal judges. Mr. Pilon should sit down with Mr. Reynolds and explain the threat we face from judges gone wild.

Judicial discretion, as both Mr. Terzian and Mr. Reynolds acknowledge, means shorter sentences for convicted felons. Congress should remember that and move quickly to restore mandatory sentencing, which improved its constituents’ safety.





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