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Bipartisan lawmakers urge Biden to prioritize sentencing panel nominees

(Reuters) – Two Democratic and Republican lawmakers in a letter on Monday urged President Joe Biden to prioritize filling vacancies which have left the U.S. Sentencing Commission with out a quorum, saying the scenario has stalled legal justice reform.

U.S. Representatives Kelly Armstrong, Republican of North Dakota, and Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, mentioned the vacancies have “forestalled the important work of updating and establishing new sentencing guidelines.”

A White House spokesperson had no instant remark.

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The fee misplaced its quorum in January 2019, a month after former Republican President Donald Trump signed into regulation the First Step Act, bipartisan laws aimed toward easing harsh sentencing for non-violent offenders and at lowering recidivism.

Armstrong and Raskin mentioned the dearth of quorum additionally meant the fee can’t replace the advisory sentencing pointers wanted to assist implement the regulation, ensuing probably in its uneven software by judges throughout the nation.

“It is imperative that the vacancies are expeditiously filled so the Commission can continue its work to improve the federal criminal justice system,” the lawmakers wrote.

The seven-person panel’s lone remaining member, Senior U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, instructed Reuters this month he can be “surprised and dismayed” if Biden didn’t decide nominees by early 2022 and urged him to assist restore its quorum.

Breyer’s personal time period expired on Oct. 31 however he can stay on the fee for up to a 12 months extra until a alternative is confirmed. Armstrong and Raskin cited his potential departure as one more reason to act.

Breyer and others have mentioned the dearth of a quorum meant the fee couldn’t advise judges on whether or not underneath the First Step Act inmates may safe compassionate launch amid the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to inconsistent rulings.

The fee’s seven members should embody 4 federal judges, and not more than 4 members could be from the identical get together. Trump tapped 5 nominees in August 2020, however the Senate by no means acted on them.

Read extra:

U.S. sentencing panel’s final member Breyer urges Biden to revive fee

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Nate Raymond

Nate Raymond reviews on the federal judiciary and litigation. He could be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.

REUTERS/Chip East

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